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Stop Extension of Lease of Tossamaidan Firing Range.

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The extension of lease to Army unacceptable. Spread over around 3000 kanals of land, Tosmaidan meadow in district Budgam was taken over by Army on lease in 1964 for the purpose of conducting artillery drills in the area. The Army has approached the state government for extension of the lease as it has made a permanent base in the alpine meadow. Surrounded by dense forests and situated about 10 Kms from Khag area, experts believe the Tosmaidan area is rich in bio-diversity. From June to August, one can hear gunfire and other artillery sounds in the firing range. Many of the shells remain unexploded. Later, when the movement of people starts these shells explode. A number of deaths have taken place in the area during the past few years.Residents of the area have been for a long time now demanding shifting of firing range. They have been complaining that Army’s presence is affecting their lives socially and economically.
Tosmaidan route is used by Gujjars and Bakerwals of Rajouri, Poonch, Baramulla and Budgam for cattle rearing. Many nomads and their cattle become victims of the unexploded shells.
Tosmaidan has also witnessed number of deaths due to unexploded shells. Since the meadow is used for cattle grazing by Gujjars and Bakerwals, they often step on the deadly shells.
The area has huge potential to be developed as a tourist destination. Due to presence of Army nobody dares to visit the place.
The shelling by Army has blocked outer surface of the water body ‘Shup-Naag’ resulting in water shortage in the area as the spring is located in the upper reaches of Tosmaidan. “About 40 percent of its water comes down to Khag area while rest of it goes to Pakistan. Near about one third of the population of Budgam and Baramulla depends upon this lake for irrigation and drinking purposes.
To pressurize the government to end the lease and shift the Firing Range, an extraordinary meeting of Panchayat members, members of J&K RTI Movement, civil society groups, senior citizens was held at Brass village of Budgam.
During the meeting a joint front was formed in order to mount pressure on the government for shifting the Tosmaidan Firing Range for which the lease agreement is expiring next year and the front has been named as Tosmaidan Bachao Front (Save Tosmaidan Front).
The Front is an amalgam of elected Panchayat representatives, J&K RTI Movement, Civil Society Groups, School for Environment and Rural development, Rural Voice etc.
Muhammad Maqbool Magray (Brass village) has been elected Chairman of the Front, Moulvi Maqbool, General Secretary and Farooq Ahmad Sheikh (Khag), Ghulam Muhammad Shah (Khag) and Nazir Ahmad Lone (Shunglipora) have been elected as Coordinators.
“The J&K RTI Movement has extended its full support to the Front and will work on every stage to get the genuine demands of the people of this area fulfilled democratically”, said Chairman J&K RTI Movement Dr Sheikh Ghulam Rasool.
“There are other places in J&K which are best suited for firing range like Zanskar in Ladakh. So it will be in the interest of people to shift the range on war footing basis,” said, Muhammad Maqbool Magray chairman of the newly constituted Front.
The Front alleges that the lease agreement is expiring next year and agencies have started harassing some people of the area who speak out against the extension in lease agreement of this range.
Forum has unanimously declared to work on, complete removal of Tosmaidan Firing Range, advocacy for development of Tosmaidan as a tourist area, advocacy and demand rehabilitation and compensation to the people who have been killed, disabled, and whose houses have been damaged. Afforestation in the area where wanton deforestation has taken place.

“This has badly affected the economy and social life and caused a heavy loss to precious human lives. The land was leased to army for 50 years in 1964 and period expires March next year. However, the administration while ignoring the problems faced by locals insists for extension of the lease agreement.

Deputy Commissioner Budgam, Khursheed Ahmad Shah told Greater Kashmir that the decision lies with the Government. “I had a meeting with people and the feedback has been given to Government,” he said.

An official spokesman of 15 Corps said that they have requested the Government for extension of lease. “For Army there is need of infrastructure and let the Government decide,” he said.
“The J&K RTI Movement has extended its full support to the Front and will work on every stage to get the genuine demands of the people of this area fulfilled democratically”, said Chairman J&K RTI Movement Dr Sheikh Ghulam Rasool.
We at J&K RTI Movement expect that all the Political Parties and Human Rights Activists of Kashmir will support this Human cause. We have voiced against this Firing range and have created a forum as well in the area. We hope for the best results in future.
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Best Regards:
Anjan Bilal
(Social Media Coordinator - J&K RTI Movement)

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