Locals allege troops vandalise villagers’ property ‘every evening’, teargas stone-pelting youth
Kulgam: A month before Panchayat elections are scheduled to start in Kashmir, government forces have occupied a Panchayat office building here in Redwini Bala area of Kulgam district to establish their camp. The district administration says it was not even informed before the camp was established in the Panchayat Ghar.
This is the second Panchayat Ghar to have been occupied by the forces in the area. A few months ago, the army occupied a Panchayat Ghar in Jablipora area of Bijbehara, a few kilometers from Redwini Bala.
As per local sources, government forces moved into the Panchayat Ghar in Redwini Bala in the dead of night some four days ago. Personnel from the army, paramilitary CRPF, and police’s Special Operations Group (SOG) have been stationed at the camp.
Since the camp was established, clashes have been erupting in the area on a daily basis, following alleged vandalism by the troops stationed there.
“Even today, as we speak, clashes and tear smoke shelling has been going on in the area,” a local source told Kashmir Reader on Friday. “Life has become difficult ever since the camp was established. People are afraid of venturing out after 7pm.”
The sources said that the forces’ personnel have been going out into the village every evening and have been vandalising parked cars and other private property.
“There is obviously fear, but also a lot of anger in the area. The youth, bristling at the high-handedness of the troops, assemble everyday and pelt the camp with stones. They face tear gas in return,” sources told Kashmir Reader.
The villagers have also accused the troops of chopping down trees, which belong to the locals, to make bunkers out of them.
“They have overnight constructed washrooms and bunkers. Also, any construction material being ferried through the area is being forcibly unloaded at the camp,” locals alleged.
Kashmir Reader talked to Deputy Commissioner (DC) Kulgam, Dr Shameem Ahmad, who acknowledged that he was not taken into confidence before the camp was established.
“These are security related issues and it is the prerogative of the government to take decisions on that,” Ahmad said.
He said that people had come to him to complain and he asked them to specify if any private property of theirs was taken away to be used for the camp.
“If anyone’s property has been used, they should come forward and give me the details,” he said. “I will take the complaint forward.”
Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Kulgam, Harmeet Singh, excused himself from commenting on the issue, saying he was in a meeting.
A police official in the district spoke to Kashmir Reader on condition of anonymity. He said that the camp was on the cards for the past six months, and now it has finally been established. “It has nothing to do with the Panchayat elections,” he said.
He refuted allegations that government forces were resorting to vandalism in the area, but acknowledged that clashes took place in the area today and also a day after the camp was established.
“Nothing major, though. There has been no vandalism on part of the security forces,” the police official said.
This reporter also tried to get in touch with the Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) South Kashmir range, Amit Kumar, who did not pick up calls.