Renewed agitation over Tosmaidan issue on the cards

SRINAGAR: To chalk out fresh protest programme to respond to the government’s silence over Tosmaidan lease, the Tosmaidan Bachao Front (TBF) is holding a series of meetings on Wednesday, with “administrative boycott” likely to be the first step of the renewed agitation.
All constituent groups of TBF, which has been spearheading the agitation against possible lease extension, are meeting in the office of J&K RTI Movement, one of TBF’s principal components, to chalk out a protest strategy.
“We have been waiting for the government to act after the lease period ended on April 18, but unfortunately it is silent. No response whatsoever has come from the government. So, we are meeting to chalk out a protest programme for future,” chairman TBF Dr Sheikh Ghulam Rasool told Kashmir Reader on Tuesday.
“We will discuss the options with all our constituents. We may go for an administrative boycott, democratic boycott, or we may also consider the legal course,” Dr Rasool said. “We have been trying to be non-violent. But if government doesn’t act, things may go out of control.”
The TBF may later meet the representatives of civil society groups, trade bodies, tourism players and other organisations that have been supporting their cause.
“We will try to see how they can support out future programme,” Dr Rasool said.
Tosmaidan, 11, 200 hectare of meadow in central Kashmir’s Budgam district, has been serving as a firing range to the Indian army since 1964. The land is being used by the force on lease without paying anything as rent to the state.
The people of Budgam, joined later by the general populace of the Valley, have been opposing any extension in the lease period that expired on April 18 while the army has formally asked for extension in the lease.
The tussle forced the state government to set up a committee for reviewing the lease. However, the committee headed by Chief Secretary Mohammad Iqbal Khanday is yet to arrive at a decision. In its last meeting, the committee tasked the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Shailendra Kumar to find an alternative site to be offered to the army as firing range.
While the status quo continues at Tosmaidan—the meadow remains under army’s control—TBF may call for a sit-in at the firing range itself to stop the forces from carrying out any artillery drills in future.
“As the issue stands now, the army has control over meadow. If the government doesn’t come up with an order for handover of the meadow, we will sit in the middle of the firing range. Then we shall see how army uses the meadow as for firing,” Dr Rasool said, clarifying that they don’t seek relocation of the firing range.
“We demand that the army shall vacate the firing range. We don’t seek its relocation to an area that is equally fragile by environment or human point of view. If the firing range is to be relocated, it shall be taken to a place where it doesn’t affect human lives and environment,” the TBF chairman added.