SRINAGAR: While the government seems undecided over Tosamaidan lease, Budgam civil society has decided to launch an awareness campaign for more support to their ongoing agitation.
Tosmaidan Bachao Front (TBF), a body that spearheads the agitation held a detailed meeting Sunday. The meeting decided to intensify the agitation, first by launching a large scale awareness campaign. Tosmaidan, 11,200 hectare meadow has been turned into a firing range by the army causing massive destruction to the meadow and the environment.
“We have decided to launch an awareness campaign to inform the general public about what has been going on. This way we will try to get more support for our agitation,” Dr Sheikh Ghulam Rasool of J&K RTI Movement, a principal component of TBF, told Kashmir Reader.
Informing media, said Rasool, will also be a part of the campaign. And TBF is expected to organise trips to Tosmaidan for the media persons.
Picturesque Tosmaidan was leased out to the army in 1964 for use as a firing range. The army has been training its men at the meadow in use of heavy artillery, without paying a penny as rent to the state.
Last year, the army moved a formal application to the government for extension in the lease, which is due to end on April 18. It, however, met opposition from the local populace, which has been demanding relocation of the firing range. And in its rather delayed response, the government constituted a committee to review possibilities of both relocation and lease extensions of the meadow.
The committee, formally constituted almost four months after it was announced, is yet to come up with its final report.
“So far the government has shown no serious progress in relocating the firing range. We have decided that if the firing range isn’t relocated, we will boycott the upcoming elections and all developmental projects to be introduced or implemented in future,” Rasool said. “In Sunday’s meeting, we made a fresh promise to continue our agitation.”
The military activities at the meadow have so far killed and injured dozens of civilians who came into contact with the leftover artillery shells while grazing their cattle. The causalities have been confirmed by the state government as well.
If extended, the lease will allow military activities at Tosmaidan to continue till 2034.