Flagrant Land Grab In Pahalgam

by Bisma Nazir

Build Mosque, Grab Land. This is the time-tested formula of organized land grabbers in this

scenic destination. Authorities are not taking any concrete action

Pahalgam, the world-famous tourist destination, remains in news for both good and bad
reasons. This beautiful serene place provides solace to the tourists, hosts the sacred annual
Amarnath Yatra and mesmerizes lakhs of local, non-local and foreign tourists throughout the year. Given its prime location, Pahalgam has also become a green pasture for the land mafia, goons with political connections and subversive gangs.
The gangs involved in encroachment of state and forest land have invented a novel way of
doing business in Pahalgam. The gangs mostly operate under the cover of religion. While going through the specific reports of encroachment and illegal constructions, Kashmir Central came across appalling instances of breach of law and norms within the municipal limits of Pahalgam.
Strong Political Patronage
In most cases, it is found that the gangs of encroachers having political patronage initially go for construction of mosques at the disputed sites, followed by the construction of commercial units. This has been the time-tested formula used by land encroachers in the area.
These gangs operate in connivance with local unscrupulous officers holding important positions in Pahalgam Development Authority, Pahalgam Municipality and the Revenue Department and Forest Department.
Even if the local aggrieved people file complaints in the respective offices, there is no action by erring officials on ground. The gangs operating in Pahalgam  have connections with highly influential people locally and also nationwide. It would not be an exaggeration to state that the gangs operate in a very organized manner.
Local Administration Disinterested To Stop Land Grab
Such machinations started in Pahalgam in 2010 when a group of people led by one Mushtaq Magray alias Mushtaq Pahalgami of Ganishbal, Pahalgam, under the cover of a NGO. He organized the local labour and pony wala to grab land at yatra base camp in Nunwan Pahalgam.
The local administration could have stopped this encroachment on Pahalgam Shrine Board
property. But they maintained silence, owing to which the group constructed a mosque on the encroached land. The officers at that time were hand-in-glove with the organized gang.
This lukewarm response to the encroachment by the local state authorities encouraged the
organized gang to launch a full offensive for further encroachments as and when they desired.
Sources reveal that at that time, the matter was brought into the notice of Mr RK Goel,  the then Principal Secretary to the Governor. Mr Goel is presently Additional Chief Secretary (Home).
Some eminent citizens of Pahalgam apprised him of the flagrant violations. It was not
immediately known why action was not initiated into the matter. The mosque constructed on
the encroached land remains out of bounds for almost eleven months in a year.
Soon thereafter, other members of the gang started encroaching upon state land at various
points within the limits of Pahalgam Development Authority. As recent as this year, one Gulam
Nabi Lone, President Taxi Stand Pahalgam, started reconstruction of a mosque already in
dispute with the Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee, Pahalgam. Lone didn’t stop at the
reconstruction of the mosque. He constructed an unauthorized commercial shop alongside the
mosque, obviously in connivance with the local administration.
Even more, the land grabbers started encroaching upon the migrant properties right under the nose of the erring officers.
State Largesse For Shabir Shah
It is quite interesting to see that the local authorities went out of the way to grant permission to the family of separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah, his brother  Mohd Syed Shah and their sister to construct a hotel in a non-permissible area next to Golf Course.
The gravity of the matter can be ascertained from the fact that no excavation is allowed
in Pahalgam. But in this case, the basement was constructed after massive excavation. Sources say that this is in violation of the orders of the High Court.
Sources reveal that Shabir Shah owns a hotel near Pahalgam Club by the name of Hotel
Baisaran. Sources say that the local authorities granted him permission for minor repair, but the permission is being used for large-scale construction.

Locals Face Difficulties, Corrupt Elite Flourish

The constructions at Pahalgam are regulated by the Chief Executive Officer
(CEO), Pahalgam Development Authority. Permissions for new construction are granted under Building Operation Control Act (BOCA).
The on ground situation is that influential persons have managed to get permissions for
construction at eco sensitive zones, wild life areas and even on state land. For instance,
renovation permission for constructions of huts has been issued at Kanthlun Mandlana, which is a designated wildlife area. It is part of the Awoora-Aru wildlife range. This permission has been given to an influential person of the area. Construction work at the designated site is going on.
Another permission for construction of huts on state land has been granted in favour of
another blue-eyed person near Tulip Cottage. This is a typical case of forgery. On papers, the land is shown to be somewhere else, but the permission has been granted for state land. The Patwari of the area has issued a title verification certificate without verification and spot inspection.
Another permission has been granted in an area falling under green belt just next to TV tower.
One more permission has been issued for construction of a hotel near Hotel Shepherd on KP road without proper verification.
Promises Upon Promises Of Prompt Action
When contacted CEO Pahalgam Development Authority Masarat Hashim expressed ignorance about the matter. He assured that a team of PDA shall be deputed to ascertain the facts about the highlighted alleged violations and appropriate action shall be taken if the allegations are true.
Hashim said that the Forest Department and Amarnath Shrine Board are sisters concerns
looking after land management in their respective jurisdictions in Pahalgam. He said that if
there are violations under his domain, prompt action shall be taken. However, the concerned officers in Forest Department and Amarnath Shrine Board could not be contacted for their comments.
There is one more dimension to the problem. Pahalgam is a non-permissible area. Permissions
for residential and commercial purposes are granted after a long and tedious procedure.
However, allegations are galore that the poor locals are not given permission while as the
highly influential people who have chains of hotels get permission without any hindrance. Take for instance Laripora village under the foot hills of Pahalgam Golf Course. One Sheikh Owais who is also President of Pahalgam Municipality has constructed two or three buildings converted into hotels in collaboration with the local authorities. Sources reveal that Owais, who is seen as a bully, has encroached upon barren land next to his property. Sources reveal that there is no one to question his illegitimate authority.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here