In his sublime tragedy, 'Merchant of Venice', Shakespeare wrote: "There be land-rats and water-rats, water-thieves and land-thieves, I mean pirates, and then there is the peril of waters, winds and rocks". This simile aptly describes the powerful and mighty land grabbers of Jammu and Kashmir.
While the demand for protecting the dwellings of poor citizens and small farmers gains momentum in Jammu and Kashmir, the list of people on whom the axe of anti-encroachment drive has fallen so far reads like the who-is-who of the influential and powerful in the union territory.
Those indulging in encroaching state and grazing lands have grown orchards, laid sprawling lawns, constructed commercial buildings and even built personal palaces on those lands.
Obviously, the hurt of giving up encroached empires is understandable.
Among the top ranking politicians, who lost possession of encroached lands during the ongoing anti-encroachment drive, is the former state unit Congress president and minister, Peerzada Mohd Syed.
Syed had fenced an area and thereby brought a large chunk of land under illegal possession in Ara Khushipora village of Anantnag's Dooru tehsil.
In the same tehsil, the legal heirs of a former chief minister and senior Congress leader, Syed Mir Qasim had grown trees on encroached land that was freed from illegal possession by the authorities.
Abdul Majeed Bhat, a former MLA, had constructed a commercial building on encroached land in Anantnag. Bhat also lost the commercial concern during the anti-encroachment drive.
Ghulam Hassan Khan, former social welfare minister, had constructed 8 shops on encroached land in Hergam village of Shopian district. He recently suffered demolition of those shops by the authorities.
Dr. Haseeb Drabu, former finance minister, had laid an orchard on 3 kanals of encroached land in Pirpora village of Keegam tehsil in Shopian district.
Authorities restored the encroached land to the public by dispossessing Drabu of the encroached land.
Taj Mohiuddin, former minister, had grown an orchard on 13 kanals and 16 marlas of encroached land in Sedow village in Shopian district. Taj also lost his illegal orchard during the anti-encroachment drive.
In Shistergam village of Dooru tehsil of Anantnag district, politician and close relation of former chief minister, Mufti Sayeed, Farooq Andrabi had grown trees on encroached land which was restored to public recently.
Not only the politicians and others, but even terrorists had made good of the bad times during 1990s.
Aashaq Ahmad, a terrorist presently in Pakistan occupied Kashmir, built a house in Hanjan Bala village of Pulwama district.
Authorities have since dismantled the house and removed the terrorists' encroachment on state land.
Politicians, government servants, land brokers and influential businessmen, all have had their finger in the pie of encroached lands in Jammu and Kashmir.
For Jammu and Kashmir Lt. Governor, Manoj Sinha, removing encroachments is going to be a tightrope walk.
He must not earn the wrath of the common man by uprooting poor citizens and small farmers while targeting the mighty encroachers.
( 507 Words)