At least 45 shops were sealed and two others demolished during the ongoing anti-encroachment drive in Banihal township of Jammu and Kashmir’s Ramban district on Sunday, officials said.
Two political activists were taken into preventive custody before the start of the drive to retrieve state land along the sub-district hospital road amid tight security arrangements, they said.
A team of revenue officials led by Tehsildar, Banihal, Imtiyaz Ahmad had on Saturday served notices to the owners of the shops, mostly pharmacies and clinical laboratories, triggering a protest.
The shopkeepers and local residents staged a sit-in at the tourist hostel, however, a police team swooped on the protesters around midnight and two sarpanches — Mohd Ilyas Wani of Democratic Azad Party (DAP) and Qaiser Hamid Sheikh of Congress — were taken into preventive custody, officials said.
Additional security personnel were deployed across the town on Sunday morning and the notified shops were sealed while two were demolished.
The shops that were sealed, included 22 pharmacies, nine clinical laboratories and five optical shops, officials said.
“The shops have come up on the encroached state land over the years and were handed over to Municipal Committee Banihal after being sealed as per the law,” the Tehsildar said.
He said eight marlas of state land, under illegal occupation of a private school, were also freed during the drive which is successfully going on and so far 40 per cent encroachment has been removed.
President, Beopar Mandal of Banihal, Pervez Hamid Sheikh requested the district administration to take into account the plight of poor shopkeepers who have lost their livelihood.
“We are thankful to the administration for providing enough time to the shopkeepers to vacate their shops which were not razed,” Sheikh said.
More than 300 people have been rendered jobless by the closure of nearly 50 shops, he said.
“We appeal to the government to take into account the plight of poor shopkeepers and their dependents and give back possession of shops to their owners as soon as possible,” he said.
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