SRINAGAR: Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti on Monday warned the government against evicting members of the Gujjar-Bakerwal community from forest areas in the union territory, saying if they are harassed, the consequences would be dangerous.
Mehbooba visited the upper reaches of Pahalgam in south Kashmir's Anantnag district on Monday and met people whose 'Dhoks' (temporary shelters) were demolished by authorities as part of an anti-encroachment drive.
"This is part of the illegal process started by central government in Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370, under which the people, who live here like nomads, Gujjars, Bakerwals, whose forefathers have been living here for centuries, are being evicted," Mehbooba said.
She said after the Centre made changes in the domicile law, it wants to bring people from the whole country to J-K and evict its own residents.
"This is not happening here (in Kashmir) only. If you see in Jammu, in places like Bhatindi, Sujwan, Chatta, wherever there is Muslim population, the Gujjars, the Bakerwals -- who are the real protectors of these forests -- they (government) pinpoint them and are evicting them. Where will the people go in the winter?" she said.
Describing the Gujjar-Bakerwal community as very loyal and peace-loving, the former chief minister warned that the government will have to face dangerous consequences if they are continued to be harassed.
"They have always opted for peace. But, I think they are being forcibly evicted and they might be forced to take some harsh steps. So, I want to tell the central government not to harass this community, otherwise you will have to face dangerous consequences," she said.
Mehbooba said the Centre has failed to implement the Forest Act which could have protected the community.
"This community is labelled as encroachers and told that they have illegally occupied the land. They did this in Jammu and have now started in Kashmir. But, I want to tell them that in the coming days, its consequences can be very dangerous," she said.