Protesting against some old settlements coming under the ongoing anti-encroachment drive, the former chief minister and veteran Congress leader Harish Rawat along with some State Congress leaders staged an hour –long silent sit-in front of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi at Gandhi Park in Dehradun on Wednesday.
Speaking after the protest, Rawat said that settlements like Van Gram, Khatte, Padav, Hari Gram, Indra Gram, and Gandhi Gram which are situated in the Bhabar and in the mountainous areas are important and integral parts of Uttarakhand. “We must remember that these settlements came up on the sacrifices of many. These settlements have become part and parcel of Uttarakhand’s existence. So, any attack on them in the name of anti-encroachment operation amounts to a direct attack on the State,” the veteran Congress leader said.
He further said that the State government has sent a removal notice to the Van Gujjars who have been enjoying traditional rights on the State’s forests. “This is not just unjust but also inhuman,” he said.
He also raised the issue of the removal notice sent by the State irrigation department to the settlers who have been living around the Tumadia dam, earning livelihood for years preceding Uttarakhand emergence as a State. “Removing these people while citing encroachment of government land amounts to an onslaught on the core values on which Uttarakhand as a state stands-on itself. The Congress as a responsible opposition party cannot sit idle and must oppose the State government’s attack on the common people’s rights,” Rawat said.