ANANTNAG: After public opposition, the army has vacated the Shamsipora sports stadium which it occupied on January 17, but only to occupy another public property, a Panchayat Ghar this time. The army has occupied the Panchayat Ghar amid uncertainty over the holding of panchayat elections, which are long overdue and which Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti announced last year would be held this February. As per the locals of Shamsipora, a unit of the army two days ago moved into the Panchayat Ghar that is supposed to be the seat of the local government, the Panchayat. Shamsipora falls in Jablipora area of Bijbehara in Anantnag district. The Panchayat Ghar is located near the railway line and the newly opened bypass of the national highway. Terming it as an operational requirement, the army had moved into a sports stadium in Shamsipora with the intent to set up camp there.
Stiff resistance and unrelenting protests by the locals forced the government to intervene. The district administration later said that the army had agreed to move out of the stadium after being given assurance that they will be provided an another space.
Sources said the army moved straight into the Panchayat Ghar of Jablipora two days ago, when it vacated the sports ground.
The army’s move has irked locals in Jablipora, who complain that the Panchayat Ghar is surrounded by paddy fields and the under-construction fruit mandi.
Fuit growers and farmers in the area said that the presence of army will hamper their work.
“We have to visit our fields on a daily basis and the presence of army in the area is going to hinder our movement to our own property. Besides, our women folk too visit the place regularly,” the farmers told Kashmir Reader.
About a dozen associations of fruit traders are associated with the under-construction fruit mandi. “Army presence will only prolong the opening of the mandi, which has already been delayed for several years now. There will be curbs on movement of workers to and from the mandi area,” fruit traders told Kashmir Reader.
They said that they will soon take up the matter with the district administration.
The locals said that the space should not have been occupied even if there was no mandi or paddy fields nearby. “It is public property. The government on the one hand is talking of holding panchayat elections, and on the other hand the army is occupying a Panchayat Ghar. How ironic is that?” locals asked.
Army sources told Kashmir Reader that the Panchayat Ghar has been provided by the district administration.
Deputy Commissioner (DC) Anantnag, Mohammad Younis Malik, chose not to comment. He told Kashmir Reader that the army had some security concerns and wanted to establish a camp in the vicinity.
“The matter will be shortly taken up with the army and the issue will be sorted out soon. They will leave the place,” he said.