“We have been rendered homeless,” Muslim tribals in Jammu raise questions over ‘selective’ eviction drive

The demolition drive was carried out by JDA.

After over a dozen homes of Muslims tribals (Gujjar-Bakerwals) were demolished in an eviction drive by the administration in Jammu—the Hindu-dominated winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir—the families have accused the administration of selectively targetting them. 

Auqib Javeed | TwoCircles.net 

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JAMMU — A demolition drive in a tribal Muslim locality in Jammu by the Jammu Development Authority (JDA), has sparked protests in the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir. 

The demolition drive left over a dozen of tribals (Gujjar and Bakerwals) homeless.

Local tribal Muslims accused the SDA of selectively targetting them. 

Muskan Choudhary, whose house was demolished by the authorities told TwoCricles.net that in the wee hours of January 11, a team of Jammu Development Authority (JDA) along with police demolished their houses with bulldozers without serving any prior notices. 

“We are living here since 1947 and how did we suddenly become encroachers. They destroyed everything including the utensils in which we were serving food to our animals,” Choudhary said. 

Choudhary said that the demolition has left 12 families homeless, “who are living under the open sky in this bone-chilling cold.”

“Where will we go? She questioned, adding that “We have children, and animals to take care of. This is sheer brutality.”

On January 11, the JDA along with the Jammu and Kashmir Police demolished over a dozen structures in the Roop Nagar area of the Jammu district. The JDA said that they retrieved 41 Kanal “prime land” in Roop Nagar.

However, the tribals and regional political parties questioned the selective nature of the demolition.

In a tweet, former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said that “J&K admin’s selective demolition of houses in Jammu & rendering tribals homeless is yet another method to vent their hatred by targeting minorities. Seemingly these communal policy decisions are sanctioned at the top. People need to stand up against such atrocities,” she tweeted. 

Ravinder SharmaHigh-level Spokesperson of Congress demanded a high-level enquiry into the matter.

“Why several Tribal families were uprooted in Jammu, after decades of their occupation by JDA, when several unauthorised colonies were regularised in the past in the city. High level enquiry and justice demanded,” Sharma tweeted. 

Another victim of the demolition drive told TwoCircles.net that if they (Govt) intent to go for demolition drive they should have at least served prior notice. 

“Why weren’t we served any notice. They just came and demolished our houses and left,” Arshad Bibi, whose house was demolished said. 

“They didn’t let us take our personal belongings from the house,” another victim, Seema Bibi said. 

In a statement, JDA said that the anti-encroachment drive was jointly launched by the District Administration, Police & JDA at Sector-06 Roop Nagar, Tehsil Jammu North and the encroached land falling under khasra No. 1193 and 1206 was retrieved during five hours long anti-encroachment drive.

“During the drive, out of 17 pacca/kacha structures raised upon the JDA land were also demolished and removed. Around 75 per cent retrieved land was fenced by the JDA engineering team on the spot,” reads the statement. 

Muslims tribals aghast
Following the demolition drive, tensions flared up in the area with several tribal activists hitting roads to protest. 

Members of the tribal community in Jammu protesting against the move.

It may be noted that this is not the first time that the “selective” demolition drive was launched against the Gujjars. On 18 July 2020 the Finance and Forest Department demolished houses belonging to the Gujjar and Bakarwal community as a part of the demolition drive to root out people “living illegally”.

In January 2021, the administration again launched a demolition drive in the Bathindi and Sunjwan areas of Jammu. Both areas are Muslim dominated. 

“This Vikas of Gujjar Bakerwals is being done in J&K, see people have been made homeless where they will go,” Zahid Parwan Choudhary, a tribal activist said. 

The anti-encroachment drive was jointly supervised and coordinated by Pankaj Mangotra, VC JDA, Ghansham Singh, ADC (L&O), Jammu, Kulbir Honda, SP Jammu North, Pawan Kotwal, SDM Jammu North, Jai Singh, Tehsildar Jammu North, Simridhi Sharma, Tehsildar JDA, Sh. Shabbir Ahmed Khan, Dy. SP and Sajjad Ahmed, Dy. SP.


Auqib Javeed is a journalist based in Kashmir. He tweets at @AuqibJaveed.