SRINAGAR: Tosmaidan Bachao Front (TBF) has filed an RTI application to get the concealed information about official developments regarding the extension in lease to the Indian Army.
Tosmaidan, a picturesque 11,200 hectare meadow in highlands of Budgam, has been serving as an artillery training ground for the Army under its 1964 lease agreement with the state government. However, as expiry of the lease deed is drawing near, the civilian populace of the district, under the banner of TBF, has been up in arms, opposing the possible extension of the deed.
“Now, we have filed an RTI seeking information on number of meetings the Civil-Army liaison committee has held, and the minutes of those meetings. We have also asked several questions pertaining to Tosmaidan, and the information will be shared with the nation as soon as we get it,” Farooq Kuthoo, chief spokesperson of TBF announced at a rally in Arizal area of Budgam district on Monday.
The people have been demanding relocation of the firing range and subsequent conversion of Tosmaidan into a tourist destination. The resentment from public forced the government to set up a high level committee for deciding on whether to extend the lease.
So far, however, the committee’s activities have been kept out of the public knowledge, prompting the people to intensify their agitation. They have already started a large scale awareness campaign to gain more support to their agitation, besides threatening a boycott of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls and mass resignation of Panchayat members.
Going ahead with its campaign, TBF held a protest rally in Arizal on Monday. Hundreds of people attending the rally were addressed by the office bearers of TBF who pledged to continue the agitation.
“We will not let an inch of Tosmaidan be given to Army after the expiry of lease,” they said, demanding that all the meetings of high level panel constituted by Chief Minister and civil military liaison meeting reports should be made public immediately.
Chairman TBF, Dr Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, urged upon the civil society, political parties, international community, and human rights organisations to “play their part” and help in “shifting the Tosmaidan firing range”.
“The government must make clear whether or not it has offered any alternatives to the Army. We warn the govt not to fool public by making mere announcements,” he added.
They reiterated that they would call for mass agitation, boycott of polls, and resignation of panchayat members if the lease is extended.