The residents living in the border areas of Akhnoor and Chamb in Jammu have demanded that the Army’s artillery firing range at Kalith be relocated as they feel they are dangerously placed near the range and may suffer casualties.
Recently, GOC Northern Command, Lt-General D.S. Hooda said he has recommended that compensations for families affected by the Kalith firing range in Jammu be enhanced. The Army is hopeful that despite recent protests in the area, the issue would be resolved with the cooperation of local residents. Hundreds of villagers staged protests in Akhnoor, Jourian, Khour and Pallanwale a few days ago and said that the firing range should be relocated. The protesters submitted a petition to the district authorities voicing their objections and demanding the relocation of the range.
The previous Mufti Mohammad Sayeed-led PDP-BJP government had given its nod to renotify the firing range for the Army at Kalith. A government notification was issued in Jammu based newspapers asking the people of Akhnoor and adjacent areas to raise objections, if any, with the deputy commissioner of Jammu. Local BJP MLA Krishan Lal is also supporting the protesters.
It is in place to mention that the Army stopped its firing practice in 2014 after the lease of all the 10 firing ranges they had in Jammu and Kahmir expired. The previous Omar Abdullah government had refused to extend the lease of the Tosa Maidan firing range in Kashmir. The place is being developed as a tourist destination. In the Civil-Military Liasion Conference headed by the then Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, it was agreed that the Army would be given back the Kalith firing range so that they can resume artillery practice.
But a notification to that effect triggered protests from the residents of Akhnoor and Chamb. The state government is yet to start the process to re-notify the firing ranges for the Army.
Meanwhile, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) asked the J&K government and the Ministry of Defence to file their response over the proposal to allow the Army to set up a firing range at Bajpathri, a meadow close to the tourist resort of Yusmarg in central Kashmir.