Why Activists Are Calling J&K Govt’s Directive On Tribals A Further Move To ‘Islamise’ Jammu
An RTI reply has revealed several questionable decisions taken by J&K Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti regarding the tribal population in Jammu.
Is the state’s soft approach to tribals, who are mostly Muslims, further alter Jammu’s demography?
Activists in Jammu are again up in arms against the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) government for its alleged “Islamisation” of the state’s only Hindu-majority region.
Fresh protests come after a Right to Information (RTI) reply revealed that Chief Minister (CM) Mehbooba Mufti has directed the police and district administration not to provide any police protection for eviction of tribals without the approval obtained from Tribal Affairs Department. In simpler words, the CM has directed that the tribal population, which is mostly Muslim Gujjars and Bakarwals, shall not be disturbed or dislocated till a policy is framed.
On the face if it, the move looks like an attempt to prevent the tribal community from harassment in the name of anti-encroachment drives. But scratch the surface and a sinister conspiracy to further alter the demography of Jammu can be sensed, as alleged by J&K high court lawyer Ankur Sharma who accessed the details of a high-level review meeting of Tribal Affairs Department held on 14 February chaired by Mufti.
It is to be noted that the Jammu Development Authority (JDA) and revenue and forest departments are undertaking large-scale anti-encroachment drives following the direction of the J&K high court. As per the state government’s own admission, a massive 1,510 acres of land had been encroached in Jammu city.
Sharma explains that the new rule essentially means that the provisions of CrPC, RPC, Land Revenue Act, and other penal laws will not be invoked against the tribals even if they commit a crime under the express provisions of these penal laws. Basically, the tribals who are notorious for encroaching state, forest and private lands especially in Hindu-dominated areas, will now do so with impunity and worse, active support of the state government.
Another problematic decision taken in the meeting is related to bovine smuggling. The CM has directed the authorities to ensure that “due care be taken” while dealing with cases under Animal Cruelty Act against the tribals. The justification is that the tribal affairs department is receiving complaints regarding misuse of Section 188 RPC and Animal Cruelty Act as animal rearing is their profession and they are required to transport their animals from one place to another during seasonal migration. However, Sharma says that the new rule means that the tribals, who are infamous for carrying out bovine smuggling and cow slaughter, will be able to do it without fear, given the active backing of the CM.
As per a report by Jammu-based newspaper Daily Excelsior, these directions have the potential of jeopardizing developmental works and leading to law and order problems. For instance, work on the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Vijaypur will remain stalled till the tribal population is evicted from the proposed site. Other projects by JDA in Jammu and Nagrota too won’t start. The report also quotes senior police officers admitting that the new rules will promote bovine smuggling and will hamper police from checking it.
“The decisions are clearly aimed at not only providing administrative immunity to land grabbers of a particular religion but also giving an open invitation to them to occupy and grab more land in Jammu. And also indulge with impunity in bovine smuggling and slaughter,” says Sharma.
The high-level meeting was attended by Tribal Affairs minister Choudhary Zulfikar, Minister of State for Finance and Tribal Affairs Ajay Nanda and top brass of the state administration including the Chief Secretary, Principal Secretary Home Department and Principal Secretary to Chief Minister. As per Excelsior, it is possible that officers of tribal department might have misled the CM into issuing such directions.
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