Tosmaidan lease extension unacceptable: Mirwaiz

Srinagar: Alleging that India was trying to “legitimize” the huge presence its armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir, Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq Friday said that any attempt to extend the lease of Tosmaidan land to Army will be unacceptable.
“India is trying to legitimize its huge army presence here and the people claiming to be the elected representatives are actively acting as helpers of Indian establishment in accomplishing their plans,” MIrwaiz said while addressing a Friday gathering at Jamia Masjid.
Mirwaiz said that despite Jammu and Kashmir being a highly-militarized zone, India instead of demilitarization was increasing the number of its troops in the region.
While extending his full support to the demand of local population opposing the extension in the lease of Tosmaidan land to army, Mirwaiz said “such a step would be unacceptable and greatly resisted by the people.”
He said that army besides occupying three thousand acres of meadow in Tosmaidan area has in its possession six thousand five hundred Kanals of forest land the lease period for which is expiring this month.
“According to general estimates seventy one thousand five hundred acres of land are under Army possession and in addition to that, agricultural land including land used for horticulture in different areas and even the land at world famous tourist spots like Gulmarg, Tangmarg, Pahalgam, Sonamarg etc. has been occupied by the Army and turned into camps and mini cantonments,” Mirwaiz added.
“In Gulmarg alone, Mirwaiz said, one hundred eighty acres of land has been illegally occupied by the army.”
Mirwaiz said that by bringing the land in these areas under the army use, the importance of these tourist destinations is intentionally being reduced besides destroying the forest cover and affecting the fragile eco system of these areas.
“Turing these areas into firing ranges have made the lives of the people living there miserable and vulnerable,” Mirwaiz said.
He said that in Tosmaidan area alone “sixty seven innocent people have so far got killed and many injured due to the firing related exercises by the army and unexploded shells lying around in the area.”
“On one hand, the state government is talking about boosting tourism in Kashmir and on the other it is planning to hand over large chunks of land at prominent tourist spots to Army thus destroying the historical and tourist importance of these places,” Mirwaiz said, adding “The way army’s presence and writ is increasing in the valley the day is not far when people of Jammu and Kashmir may require a permission from the army to visit their own tourist spots.”
The Hurriyat Conference (M) chairman while appealing to the United Nations and International community “to intervene and stop the ongoing vandalizing of land and other resources by the army,” asked them “to use their influence for demilitarization of the area.”
Mirwaiz reiterated that Jammu and Kashmir is a “political issue involving the sentiments and aspirations of the people and no amount of military might can suppress it.”