Despite having faced stiff resistance from the local traders and the people of the Van Gujjar community, the team of the Municipal Corporation and district administration continued with its anti-encroachment drive in Kankhal area on Wednesday. The team started its drive along the stretch from Shankaracharya Chowk to the Pahari Bazaar in the area. Shops found standing on encroached land were demolished with JCB machines. The team was led by the municipal commissioner Lalit Narayan Mishra and SDM Manish Kumar. Notably, the Van Gujjar community people led by the women had chased the forest department team with sticks when it reached Gaziwali, making the team members to return on Tuesday.
Tempers frayed as the demolition drive continued to pull down squatters as those being affected by the drive alleged that the team members paid no heed to their objections. The traders alleged that a district administration officer had slapped one of them, a charge which the officers denied.
Speaking to The Pioneer on Wednesday, SDM Manish Kumar said, “The anti-encroachment drive on both sides of Sanyas Road was carried out today. The people were asked to free about three feet space from the main road. It would continue throughout this week.”
However, the forest officials had faced a tough time and had to return after the Van Gujjars living around Gaziwali area had gheraoed the officials on Tuesday. The Van Gujjar community members alleged that the forest department team had made an attempt to uproot them by serving them with fake notice. Till late evening of the day, the forest officials were seen making futile attempts to vacate the ‘deras’ of the Van Gujjars who have been allegedly occupying the forest area near Gaziwali for the past many years. Things had come to a head when the Gujjar women had approached with sticks in their hands and forced the foresters to return. The Gujjar people also alleged that the officials had taken money from them.
One from Gaziwali said that he had given Rs 20,000 to a forest guard to have his hut built. “Besides, I have been supplying free milk to his family. Now, they have come to evict us from the land we have been living on for years,” he alleged.