Villagers take to the streets against Pak firing
9 July 2000
Jammu: Pakistani firing once again triggered off migration from the villages of RS Pura belt on the International Border yesterday. But, unlike earlier migrations, this time the villagers did not settle down with their relatives or take shelter in nearby schools, but came out on streets raising slogans: ''When your demands don''t get redressed peacefully, you have to snatch them''. Hundreds of villagers, including women and children, cattle, marched towards the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Sciences and Technology complex in the main RS Pora town and forcibly settled on the agricultural land. While some of the agitated villagers blocked the Jammu-Amritsar National Highway for several hours, the others forcibly moved into university premises and occupied the agricultural land meant for research purposes. Agitated villagers pelted stones when the police tried to stop them from occupying varsity lawns. The police had to resort to lathi-charge. The situation worsened with the mob beating up policemen, injuring a dozen of them. Superintendent of Police, Border, S.K. Atri tried peaceful negotiation with the farmers. But the village sarpanch started allotting every bit of the university land. The allotment was done according to the land a particular farmer had at his native place. Within no time, the farmers also started settling down on the land allotted to them. Jammu Additional Deputy Commissioner B.D. Sharma held an emergency meeting with the village elders and asked them for time so that alternate arrangements could be made for them. It was only in the evening that the agitated villagers agreed to lift the blockade of NH. Late last evening, a five-member delegation, including farmers Rajesh Sharma, Mohan Lal, Des Raj, Rajinder Kumar and Makhan Lal met the 17-memberParliamentary Standing Committee headed by Pranab Mukherjee. But the villagers decided not to return to their place unless the government took a decision in their favour and provided agricultural land to them. ''Earlier also, we committed mistake by listening to their (govt''s) false promises. But this time we will not be taken for a ride. We will return only when our demands are met,'' said Shanta Devi, a villager. When contacted, Pranab Mukherjee said: ''We have listened to their plight and are going to take up the matter in the Parliament''.