The Jammu and Kashmir administration has published the names of more than 63,000 people, accusing them of illegally occupying over 15,000 hectares of forest land under the now-nullified Roshni Act, Greater Kashmir reported on Thursday.
The lists, uploaded by Jammu and Kashmir Committee on Forest Encroachments, named alleged encroachers in 32 forest divisions – 20 in Jammu and 12 in Kashmir. According to this, the highest area of forest land encroached upon is in Jammu region’s Ramban forest division (2,106 hectares). This is followed by Rajouri division (1,973.9 hectares), Poonch (1,472 hectares) and Shopian (1,026.77 hectares), which is located in Kashmir division.
Unidentified officials told The Print that the authorities have retrieved over 550 hectares of forest land in 2020 alone. “These encroachments have been done for over 70 years,” a senior official told the news website. “The forest land illegally occupied by individuals has been retrieved over the years, but this year the process was sped up.”
In October, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court had ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation-led inquiry in the alleged involvement of public servants and others in grabbing government land. The court declared Roshni Act as “illegal, unconstitutional and unsustainable”.
A public interest litigation was filed by a non-governmental organisation Save Animals Value Environment in 2017. In September, the Jammu and Kashmir forest department had filed a report, where it said that over 64,000 persons have encroached upon the forest land.
In a first list published by the administration on November 23, former Peoples Democratic Party leader Haseeb Drabu, Congress’ KK Amla, National Conference leader Syed Akhoon, and former Jammu and Kashmir Bank Chairman MY Khan were named as “encroachers”. Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, sister Suraiya Matto and son Omar Abdullah were among those named in the second list.
Last month, the CBI had booked former Jammu and Kashmir minister and Congress leader Taj Mohiuddin in connection with the Roshni land case.