The houses were demolished despite a status quo order by sessions court Jammu
Over a dozen tribal families are living out in the open in cold winter nights for last two weeks after their homes were demolished at Roop Nagar in Jammu.
Rendered homeless, the Gujjar and Bakerwal families are on a sit-in protest, demanding justice and a shelter to live. The tribals say their houses stood there for last 70 years and accused the Jammu Development Authority of a selective approach.
The Jammu Development Authority said the houses were built on the government land but conceded that they stood there since decades.
"It's an old encroachment - since 1998 encroachment had taken place. It's state land that was transferred to JDA. We sympathise with them. Let's see what can be done, but we have to carry out the drive," a senior JDA official had told reporters after the demolition drive.
The families and their lawyer say the houses were demolished despite a status quo order by sessions court Jammu.
"They have been deprived only because they are poor people and no one listens to them. If there was rule of law, the government would have served them notice before demolition. Also there is status quo order by additional sessions judge till March, but JDA didn't care too hoots," said Sheikh Shakeel Ahmad, lawyer J&K High Court.
The right wing groups in Jammu support the demolition drive and said that they will not allow a Shaheen Bagh type protest at Roop Nagar in Jammu. But many groups including Hindu and Sikh leaders have joined the sit-in with Gujjars and Bakerwals.
"We are fighting for their right to have a shelter and also a shelter for livestock. It's a right given by our constitution...They are not encroachers or land grabbers," said Satvir Singh Manhas, a social activist.
After J&K was stripped of its statehood and special status under Article 370, the government and the BJP have repeatedly talked about giving more rights to tribals. But for last two years, it's Gujjars and Bakerwals in J&K who have often faced evictions and demolition of their homes.