Kralsangri Forest Land Grab
Space From Water Channel Converted Into 6-Foot Road by Zaroo
A land grab or any illegal activity cannot be seen in isolation. It is the result of an enabling ecosystem in the state apparatus that allows it to take root and flourish. Some officers in the state apparatus regularize or try to regularize all that is wrong, and deliberately turn a blind eye to all transgressions. The star of the land grab at Kralsangri area of Nishat is Fahad Nazir Zaroo. But there is a whole galaxy of officers across diverse departments who have made this audacious act possible. KASHMIR CENTRAL brings to you the extent of this audacity. Read on and be amazed.
Zaroo has converted a water channel running through Kral Sangri into a road for himself. In the 21st digital edition of KZINE, we had highlighted how Zaroo had illegally taken occupation of the precious forest land in Kralsangri. Now we bring to you startling information on how space for a water channel has been squeezed. The natural route of the water channel has been diverted to make space for the road that Zaroo can use to access the forest area. All this has been done by Zaroo with the blessings of the powers that be in the state apparatus.
Wildlife Department Contradicts In Two Official Notices
The Wildlife Department of the UT Administration stopped the encroachment work on November 6, 2021. Interestingly, officials of the department did not lodge an FIR or any complaint against Fahad Zaroo. The First Information Report (FIR) against Zaroo for the land encroachment was registered by the Station House Officer of Police Station Nishat on November 7.
On November 8, Noor Mohd, Range Officer of the Wildlife Division wrote a letter to the Divisional Forest Officer of the Urban Forestry Division. Here is the description of the letter in the official records: SPR/2021/649-51. Noor Mohd noted in the letter that Fahad Nazir Zaroo has chopped down the trees and erected the angle iron poles in the buffer zone and eco fragile area without any permission from LCMA and NOC from the Wildlife Department. Mohd also wrote that the entire grabbed area belongs to the Wildlife Department, and that the area was given to the Forest Department for plantation and other allied work.
On November 12, the Wildlife Department changed its stand. The Block Office of the Department wrote the following to the SHO of Police Station Nishat: “The area is not under our administrative control, so no report in this regard was due to be submitted by this office. However since the area is not demarcated yet, so any such activity is intervened by staff in good faith, but has apprised our division. Activities taking place outside the wildlife area not recorded in the guard book unless related to wildlife offence”. The information was provided by the District Range Officer of the Wildlife Division in Letter Number 314-16/BB. The question that arises is this: What happened between November 8 and November 12 that the Wildlife Division significantly softened its stand regarding the blatant, illegal occupation of forest land? We concede that there may be a completely bona fide reason that the Wildlife Division changed its stand on the subject. Equally, the possibility of some murky deal here cannot be ruled out. For the sake of argument, we may agree with the plea given that the land does not come under the jurisdiction of the Wildlife Department. Then what prompted the Range Officer of the Department to initiate action against the encroachment and also write an official letter in this regard? These are other questions regarding this murky case that need thorough investigation.
THE STATE WAS AWARE OF THE WRONG-DOING, ADDRESSED IT IN STAGES
In the first half of November, Regional Wildlife Warden directed Wildlife Warden Dachigam: “You may visit the spot personally along with the concerned staff of Forest Department, Revenue and Demarcation Division and ascertain in physical terms the parameters, observations of concerned SHO Police Station and make a factual report along with your recommendation for further necessary action.” It is pertinent to mention that no report has been submitted by the Wildlife Department yet. As per the preliminary reports, the Forest Department has conducted a survey regarding the matter. The survey has indicated that some forest land, whether under the jurisdiction of the Wildlife Department, Urban or Forest has been encroached. The report has not been submitted yet.
Will the demarcation team give a fair report?
This question can perhaps be answered only by posing another question. Who are the members of the demarcation team?
When KASHMIR CENTRAL investigated about these officials, we came to know that a number of civil complaints have been lodged against the Revenue officials who are currently in the demarcation team from time to time for frauds, for transferring the land illegally to politicians, bureaucrats, billionaire businessman and other influential persons. What is the reason for this largesse of the Revenue officials? The question is easily answered. These civil complaints have been submitted to the Divisional Commissioner, Vigilance Commissioner, Governor and Anti-Corruption Bureau.
SETTLEMENT COMMISSION ORDERED BY DEPUTY COMMISSIONER AIJAZ ASAD
On November 12, after visiting the spot, Deputy Commissioner Aijaz Asad directed a commission to investigate the matter. The commission had been mandated to submit its report within 15 days. The report has not been submitted yet.
Sharab Kol, the 11-Feet Wide Water Channel, Squeezed And Diverted
If you are claiming that you are the owner of 500 kanals of land, then you should have some way/road to reach there. Without a connecting road, the whole purpose of occupying valuable forest land is lost.
Fahad Nazir Zaroo had no road to reach the forest land occupied by him. Then how did he gain access to it? How were huts, washrooms etc constructed on this priceless forest land?
Did he request the government to build a road for him?
Did he seek permission from any department to construct the road?
Then how did the access road to the forest come up?
The road was provided by Zaroo using his power and influence in the state apparatus of J&K UT. The 11 feet wide water canal known as Sharab Kol flows from Dachigam between the main road and Zaroo’s claimed land. Earlier, one had to jump/pass through the water canal to reach this forest area. Without seeking permission from any department, Sharab Kol was encroached near the main road by installing 14-feet high flumes. Above them, the road was provided. When the road was constructed, two gates and fencing was constructed on the canal. This construction blocked the water and dried part of the canal area. In this way, six feet of water were claimed from the canal and turned into a road. According to sources, when the canal was encroached upon and the road was constructed, an enquiry was initiated. Sources reveal that some deal took place between some officers of the state apparatus and Fahad Zaroo.
Water from Sharab Kol used to irrigate the fields in Kral Sangri and the adjacent areas. It also used to be the source of water for Karan Mahal. Zaroo conveniently squeezed the space of the water canal and diverted the water in connivance with some officials. Why isn’t any department looking into this gross violation? A resident of Kral Sangri told KASHMIR CENTRAL: The water in this canal comes from Sharab Khan. that’s why it is called sharab kol. Some influential people started building roads on their own and the canal got blocked. Its water is flowing through Nishat but not from this side. Another group of locals requested the government to restore the water canal as soon as possible as it used to be pure water, used for irrigation purposes.
No department ready to accept that Sharab Kol comes under their jurisdiction
When Water Works Division Srinagar was asked officially by SHO Police Station Nishat in a letter if the Sharab kol comes under their jurisdiction, the Executive Engineer, Water Works Division Srinagar, in the letter number WWD/CC/6029-331 wrote back, “The area in question where encroachment has been made is beyond the scope of this division. This division is maintaining the Sharab Kol only from Dachigam to Nishat water treatment plant. As such, the matter may kindly be taken up with some other department to whom it pertains.” When the same question was posed to Irrigation and Flood Control Sub-division Harwan officially, the Assistant Executive Engineer replied in letter number I&FC/SDH/515-516: The operation and maintenance of Sharab Kol doesn’t come under the ambit of this office. Also, this office neither withdraws any discharge from the said Kol in order to irrigate the nearby fields nor is responsible for collection of any water charges (Aabiyana) regarding the same. No records of said Kol are available in this office or within the Zildar canals.
Is Fahad Nazir Zaroo so influential that he grabbed land, chopped trees, encroached the water canal and turned it into a road – and the departments are acting as mute spectators, with no one ready to speak the truth? Are the officers failing their departments for financial gains? A thorough investigation into the matter shall answer these questions.
LETTER FROM THE OFFICE OF THE RANGE OFFICER S-PARK RANGE, TANGBAGH SRINAGAR
The Divisional Forest Officer,
Urban Forestry Division, Srinagar.
No. SPR/2021/ 649-51
Subject: Pruning / lopping of trees by one Mr. Fahad Zaroo & erection of Angle Iron Posts.
Sir, It came to learnt through some reliable resources one came Mr. Fahad Zaroo has done pruning / lopping of trees near VIVANTA TAJ HOTEL without consultation of forest department. Since the area falls adjacent to Forest area and he was supposed to inform us before taking this work in hand which legalize his action but he fails and kept this office abeyance about these activities. On spot he wes directed to stop such activities and he has already stopped the work as per the directions of employees of Wild Life Department.The entire area belongs to the wildlife Department & the area was given to Forest Department for plantation and other allied works. The Wild Life Department is the sole custodian of the area.
Besides it he has also created some Angle Iron Posts at the same place. The area is buffer zone & eco fragile and it is not obvious whether he has obtained necessary permission trom LAWDA & NOC from Wild Life Department to carry out such activities. Besides the owner was directed to produce the all relevant papers of land & construction which was raised already in this land.
Hence the report is submitted for favour of information and necessary action.
Range officer, S-Park Range, Srinagar
Letter From Block Officer, Wildlife Department to Station House Officer, Police Station Nishat
Office Of The Block Officer
Department Of Wildlife Protection
Block Brane/Nishat CR
The Station House,
Officer Police Station
Sub. Investigation of case FIR No. 113/2021/U/S 188 447/ IPC of Police Station Nishat.
Ref. Your No. 664/5-A/21/PSN dated 12/11/2021
Undersigned in the capacity of Block officer, Wildlife Range Dachigam, Division Central assures full cooperation in the matter brought to my notice based on available records however your issued letter contented reference vide No. SPR/2021/649-51 Dated 8/11/2021 addressed to DFO urban with a copy to SHO Nishat is even not addressed to this office therefore dose not pertain to this office. Furthermore, now on the subject matter with reference to your above referred letter, it is to inform your good self that following is the point wise reply for your letter.
1. No such activity in the area in our jurisdiction
2. The area is not under our administrative control, so no report in this regard was due to be submitted by this office, howeve since area is not demarcated yet so any such activity is intervened by staff in good faith, but has apprised our Division.
3. As above in point 2.
4. The area is not demarcated yet. The demarcation process has been initiated along with the relevant stake holder like Revenue and demarcation division. Many communications have beer made in this regard.
5. As already mentioned area is not under the administrative control of this block.
6. To check the status of the land, Deputy Commissioner Srinagar on his visit to sit in question has order the verification of records, wherein you were also physically present.
7. Area not under the administrative control of this block.
8. Activities taking place outside the wildlife area not recorded in the guard book unless related to wildlife offence.
9. Routine patrolling of the area is being conducted by the field staff and incidents pertaining to an wildlife related offence are duly reported.
10 Nissar Ahmad Shah, Forester
Noor Mohammad Mir, Forester
Gh. Nabi Wani, Guard
Manzoor Ahmad Mir, Guard
Mohammad Amin Mir, Guard
Mushtaq Ahmad Shat, Guard
Gh. Ahmad Bhat Guard
Gh Mohd-ud-din Beigh, Helper
Brane/ Nishat CR
Letter From The Executive Engineer, Water Work Division to The Station House Officer, Police Station, Nishat
Government of Jammu & Kashmir
Office of the Executive Engineer, Water Works Division Srinagar
“Tele: 0194-2452047. 2477207 Fax 2484782”
Apropos to the subject cited above, it is to submit that area in question where encroachment has been made is beyond the scope of this division. This division is maintaining the Sharab Kul only from Dachigam to Nishat Water Treatment Plant.
As such, the matter may kindly be taken up with some other department to whom it pertains.
Water Works Division Srinagar.
Copy to the:
1. Superintendent of Police City East Zone, Srinagar for favour of information please
2. Assistant Ex. Engineer City Sub Division for information. This is with reference to his letter No. CSD/664 dt. 26-11-2021
3. Office Records
Letter From Assistant Executive Engineer, Irrigation and Flood Control to Station House Officer, Police Station Nishat
Office of the Assistant Executive Engineer Irrigation and Flood Control Sub-Division Harwan.
I&FC Division Srinagar
SUBJECT: Investigation of case FIR No: 113/2021 u/s 188, 447 IPC of Police Station Nishat Srinagar
REFERENCE: 671/5-A/21/PSN Dated: 13/11/2021
With regard to the aforementioned subject and reference, it is to submit that the operation and maintenance of Sharab Khul does not come under the ambit of this office. Also, this office neither withdraw any discharge from the said khul in order to irrigate the nearby fields nor is responsible for collection of any water charges (Aabiyana) regarding the same.
it is pertinent to mention here that the I&FC sub division Harwan was created under the administrative control of the erstwhile I&FC Division Ganderbal in the year 2011. No evidences related to the handover takeover process and also no records related to the said khul are available either in this office or within the Zildar canals.
So in lieu of the facts mentioned, the Zildar canals may be directed to scrutinize the documents affiliated to the sharab khul, if any, available in order to keep altercation at bay and any encroachments, if confirmed, it will be immediately demolished and land will be retrieved within no time. The matter may also be taken up with the concerned revenue authorities regarding the same.
Assistant Executive Engineer
I&FC SD Harwan