Also violates High Court order that banned construction within 250 metres of Lidder River
Anantnag: Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former MLC from Anantnag, Sofi Yousuf and his family have squatted upon a piece of prime state land and constructed on it a two-storey shopping complex in their native Srigufwara in this south Kashmir district. The authorities have chosen to completely look the other way.
The construction is not only illegal, for it is built upon government land, but it is also in violation of a High Court directive of 2013, wherein construction within 250 meters of the Lidder River was banned.
“While the shopping complex is now functional, the district administration has failed to even get the “land in exchange” which Yousuf had agreed to provide,” sources in the district administration told Kashmir Reader.
Yousuf and his family were squatting on this piece of land for a while before they started constructing a shopping complex in the year 2013, days after the High Court directive banning construction along Lidder River banks.
“While the pace of construction was slow to begin with, it caught pace during the unrest of 2016. While Kashmir was on the brink, these people were carrying out construction on a piece of state land,” the sources said.
The district administration woke up, finally, in the latter part of the year and intervened in the construction process. Surprisingly, the district administration instead of asking Yousuf to vacate the land asked him to provide a piece of land in exchange to the land he was squatting upon.
“He did offer a piece of land but then it was unapproachable and the state land he was squatting upon was in a prime area, located in main market Srigufwara,” the sources said. “The case remained pending but the good news was that the construction was put to a halt.”
However, as an intense lockdown was enforced by the authorities post abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 last year, the Sofi family resumed construction on the shopping complex.
“Not only has he managed to construct more than 12 shops in the complex, he has also rented some of the space to a state-owned bank. Does that mean the authorities have accepted the construction to be legal?” local sources told Kashmir Reader.
This reporter had talked to some officials a while back and they had assured that the construction will be stopped until Yousuf provides land in exchange. The promises by the authorities have proved to be hollow.
“Meanwhile, emboldened by the brazenness of Yousuf, another person in the vicinity has also started constructing a shopping complex and no one is intervening,” the local sources said.
The reporter talked to a senior official in the Anantnag district administration, who confirmed that Yousuf was yet to provide any land in exchange. “I am on leave though and not authorised to talk to the media for the moment. It will be better if you talked to the Deputy Commissioner (DC) in this regard,” the official said.
Deputy Commissioner Anantnag KK Sidha, when contacted, questioned the “exchange of land” in the first place.
“Why would somebody squat on state land in the first place? The question of providing land in exchange is secondary. I will look into the matter,” Sidha told Kashmir Reader.
Tehsildar Srigufwara area, Bashir Ahmad Lone, who said that the land provided by Yousuf in exchange was unapproachable.
“It was me who wrote on that file that the exchange land should be such that it could be utilised by the state and not be an unapproachable piece of land which is of no use,” Lone said.
This reporter talked to the BJP man in question, Sofi Yousuf, as well. He said that the exchange land has been already provided.
“Also, it is not mine. It’s my brother’s property,” Yousuf said.