Tosmaidan firing range: Villagers hold protests; threaten Amarnath-like agitation if lease is extended to Army

Tosmaidan firing range: Villagers hold protests; threaten Amarnath-like agitation if lease is extended to Army

Srinagar:  Various social organizations Saturday staged massive protest demonstrations here and threatened of mass agitation if the state government extends lease over Tosmaidan meadow to the Army.
Hundreds of protestors carrying banners and placards gathered under the banner of J&K RTI Movement and Tosmaidan Bachao Front at the Press Enclave here shouting anti-government slogans.
The protestors including RTI activists, Sarpanchs, Panchs and others said the local population has been adversely affected by the presence of the firing range. They demanded the area be opened as a tourist resort.
“The range is not only used for artillery exercises and training by Army, the Indian Air Force also utilizes it for practicing air-to-ground bombing,” Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, president RTI Movement said.
He said that around 70 deaths have occurred in the area due to explosions. “Since 1965 till date, around 70 persons have lost their lives and 41 received injuries due to littered shells in Tosmaidan. We strongly oppose extension of lease and demand the dance of death should be stopped,” Sheikh said.
He said that under Supreme Court directions the area falling within 10 kilometers of wildlife sanctuary has been declared sensitive while the Tosmaidan is just three kilometers from local population.
Farooq Kuthoo, chief spokesman of J&K RTI Movement said that it was “very unfortunate” on part of the state government that despite announcing the formulation of high level panel on the Tosmaidan issue, no progress was made in the past five months. “It seems that state government makes fool of people by making mere announcements,” he said.
“If the lease is extended one again, it will give birth to Amarnath-like agitation. We request people from all walks of life to support our cause, which is purely humanitarian,” said the protestors, adding that all the Panchayat members of area will resign if lease agreement is extended in favour of Army.