Sopore: The 92 battalion of the CRPF, which has occupied land in and around Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Science & Technology (SKUAST), located in Sopore area of Baramulla district, is refusing to vacate the land even after another site has been readied for it.
The university authorities have moved from pillar to post in the past 20 years but nothing, it seems, can move the soldiers who are occupying almost 300 kanals of land in and around the prestigious university.
Most of the 300 kanals of land occupied by the CRPF 92 battalion has been taken over by the government for a sheep farm project. Had the battalion vacated the land and the government begun the project, it would have been the biggest sheep farming industry in north Kashmir.
During the 90’s the Border Security Force’s 124 battalion occupied the 300 kanals of land in and around the university campus. After the BSF went away, the CRPF took over the land and is still there, budging not an inch in 20 years.
Kashmir Reader has learnt, through reliable sources, that the CRPF has been dilly-dallying on moving to a new facility, which has been created for them in Police Lines Handwara. The said facility has been ready for the past two years. The soldiers have resisted all efforts to relocate and are playing hide-and-seek with the local administration, which seems unable to get the university land vacated.
Mohd Yousuf Zargar, Dean of SKUAST, says that the presence of paramilitary in the immediate vicinity of the educational institution has led to several problems. The battalion’s presence and movement interferes in the functioning of the university, restricts the free movement of locals and disturbs their lifestyle, apart from creating a sense of fear. The SKUAST has a major research facility and needs to interact with locals and study their livestock on a regular basis. Also, the theft of the university’s electricity by the battalion has become a common phenomenon. Even after complaining to the commanding officer, this theft continues.
Students and faculty of SKUAST resisted when a part of the university campus was encroached upon by paramilitary soldiers. For a long time, the students and teachers had to produce identity cards if they even ventured near some areas of their own campus.
Locals, too, are aghast at the presence of the CRPF camp. “They (CRPF) have occupied part of our agricultural land. We are reluctant to leave our houses during late hours. The presence of additional troopers who came from Bomai (after an episode in 2009, when two young men were gunned down by army troops at Bomai in Sopore town) has added to the nuisance. Our women feel afraid to come to the fields,” said Ghulam Nabi, a farmer in the area.
When contacted, the sub-district magistrate of Sopore, Bashir Ahmad, said that it was not his decision to make. “The concerned ministry (home ministry) should take the decision of vacating the land occupied by CRPF near Sher-i-Kashmir University, if the infrastructure has already been provided for them at some other place,” the officer said.