Evictions of forest dwellers fuels Kashmiri fears

Pahalgam, Mar 08 (AFP):
Ghulam Khatana’s family lived half their lives in a simple log hut in Kashmir’s forests, until around 200 men brandishing guns and iron rods chased them out of their home and into the blistering cold. Communities living in remote woodlands say they’ve been banished from their ancestral homes. Thousands of apple trees in small forest villages have been chopped down and wooden homes knocked down by police, forest guards and other officials.
“They just ended our traditional way of life. I feel as if I was buried alive,” said 30-year-old Khatana in Pahalgam. “It (the forest) protects us from disease and sustains us. But they have thrown us out.”
The eight people in his old home, like their neighbours in the Lidroo village region, rear livestock in summer before bunkering down in their huts in winter. All of them, including 90-year-old grandmother Janat Begam, were forced to take refuge in cramped homes with other relatives. More than 100 million people live in forests across India and are subject to laws meant to protect their right of residency if they have occupied their land for three generations.

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