By Raashid Hassan
Shopian: About 250 kanals of land already occupied by the CRPF and army at Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) at Balpora in Shopian, now four kanals of land belonging to another campus of the SKUAST at Pahnoo in Shopian has been occupied by the army’s 44 Rashtriya Rifles (RR).
Officials of the university alleged that the army took over the official buildings of SKUAST on September 17, 2106, and remained there till February 20, 2017. But after vacating the buildings, the army took over four kanals of land in the campus.
Local orchard owners also complained that they were being forced to work in their gardens according to the wishes of the army.
“We cannot work in our gardens in late or early hours of the day and we have to ask their permission first to work in our own gardens,” an orchard owner, Bilal Ahmad, said.
A group of orchard owners said that they feared to bring their women with them because of the presence of soldiers.
An official of SKUAST said that the garden nurseries of the Pahnoo campus were damaged by the army soldiers who walked through them. “The food and garbage thrown by the army soldiers brought about a hundred dogs to our nurseries and they were damaged,” he said.
Zahoor Ahmad Bhat, senior scientist at SKUAST, told Kashmir Reader that after the intervention of Vice Chancellor of SKUAST, the army has said that it will vacate the campus by April 15.
The Pahnoo campus of SKUAST has invited local orchard owners and farmers to exhibit their produce in the campus from March 16. “This year we will have Red Chief, Oregan Super, Galla, Golden Super, Golden Delicious Renders, Wells Super, and many other plants for sale. Orchardists have been invited to bring high-density plants of enhanced quality,” Zahoor Ahmad said.
PRO defence wasn’t available for comments.