Srinagar: Waiting for years from the elected governments of Jammu and Kashmir to get the required sanction to use the land at Gulmarg and Sonmarg in Kashmir valley, the Lieutenant Governor-led administration has given its sanction declaring over a thousand kanals of land in Gulmarg and 354 kanals in Sonamarg as “strategic areas”. This fresh sanction by the J&K administration has created a lot of backlash in the political parties here and many social media users have also expressed their concerns over this sanction, as, already, the army and security forces have in their possession thousands of kanals of land, including in some forest areas.

“Army in Badami Bagh cantonment area of Srinagar has already taken a good chunk of forest land in the Zabarwan hills without any permission and they have also built structures on it. This fresh sanction shows that they want to give more land to army and security forces in Kashmir. It is a matter of concern for the common people here following abrogation of Article 370,” a senior PDP leader told this newspaper.

While providing the required sanction, the J&K administration in its notification has said that they have acted on a request by Corps Commander to utilize this land at Gulmarg and Sonmarg for “operational and training requirements”.

Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted on this development and said:, “Allocating thousands of kanals to armed forces, that too in tourist areas, confirms GOIs intention to convert J&K into a military garrison. Under the ‘state land’ pretext, our land is up for grabs and to add insult to injury, locals are being evicted from their homes.”

PAGD spokesman and known leftist face in Kashmir Muhammad Yousuf Tarigami told media after the fresh sanction of land to the army that the government should review its decision because Gulmarg and Sonmarg are popular tourist destinations of valley and military presence will discourage tourism and hamper the common activities of people who live in these areas.

National Conference leaders like Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah are yet to react to the land transfer, while their party General Secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar told media that their party believes the central government is recklessly transferring the land to army and security forces in Kashmir and such transfers should stop and the government should review its decisions.