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Parties misleading people of J&K, govt says on criticism of move to notify ‘strategic areas’

Regional parties, including NC & PDP, have called administration's move to notify areas for construction of armed forces facilities an attempt to turn J&K into a 'military establishment'.

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Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir administration Sunday issued a clarification on its decision to notify certain places in the union territory as “strategic areas” to facilitate construction by the armed forces.

This came after regional parties, including the National Conference (NC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the Peoples Conference, Saturday called the government’s move an attempt to turn J&K into a “military establishment“.

The J&K administration had made amendments to the Control of Building Operations Act, 1988, and the J&K Development Act, 1970, thus giving powers to the Cantonment Board and the armed forces to carry out construction activities beyond the cantonments.

The governing body overlooking construction of facilities for the armed forces is the Cantonment Board, which, till now, had authority over areas falling under cantonments in J&K.

“A few political parties are deliberately misleading people as if land is being transferred to the Armed Forces and the entire J&K is being turned into a military establishment. It is being alleged that new areas are going to be declared as strategic where laws regulating development will not prevail. All these are baseless comments being made without reading facts,” the government’s statement read.

“It is important for the people to correctly know the facts, understand the rationale and importance of the decision, to avoid believing these mindless misrepresentations and misgivings.”

It added, “During the past some years, the Defence Forces have brought to the notice of the government that multiple issues keep commonly coming up in their infrastructure development activities which are not only cumbersome and time-consuming, but at times go against strategic interests.”

Keeping in view the strategic importance of constructing such infrastructure within defined time-frames, the government said, a special mechanism was needed.

Also read: ‘We are sitting ducks’ — elected village leaders in J&K fear for life but govt can do little

‘Laws will not be misused’

The government also said all construction activities will “conform to the overall development plan” of an area and keep in mind environmental concerns.

“…it is also important to ensure that whatever development takes place, especially when it is in the local areas of development authorities, it conforms to the overall developmental plan. The reconciliation of these two competing exigencies of public interest is important…”

The statement said, “…in the so called notified ‘Strategic Areas’, within existing Armed Forces land, the responsibility of ensuring that construction activities are undertaken as per the Developmental Control Regulation of the Master Plan and all environmental safeguards are observed, has been delegated to the Armed Forces themselves.”

The administration also said adequate safeguards were in place to ensure laws are not misused.

“Only an Army Authority, not below the level of a Corps Commander, could make a request to the Government for earmarking such an area as strategic only for direct operational and training requirements of Armed Forces,” the statement added.

The administration also said its decision has nothing to do with the transfer of any land to the armed forces. “There is no decision to either transfer any new land or declare areas outside cantonments or army land as strategic.”

Move to turn J&K into ‘military establishment’

Following the government’s decision last week, the NC had in a statement said the amendments to laws were an attempt to turn J&K into a “military establishment”. It also claimed that many civilian territories could be converted into “strategic areas” overnight.

“The strategic importance of J&K is not confined to certain areas; as such the entire region is strategically important. So by that analogy the government will have a free hand to give as much land to security forces to be used by the later for any means, which the proposed amendment is totally ambiguous about,” NC spokesperson Imran Dar had said.

Meanwhile, PDP leader and former minister Naeem Akhtar described the government’s move to be “scarier than scrapping of (J&K’s) special status”.

Senior vice-president of the Peoples Conference, Abdul Gani Vakil, had similarly said the government’s move was meant to alter, “unrecognisably”, the destiny of the people of Kashmir.

Also read: 96 of 193 inmates at Kashmir jail test Covid positive, kin say ‘in dark about condition’


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