Army-villagers impasse on closure of traditional routes in Pithoragarh
Pithoragarh, Jan 6
Facing inconvenience due to closure of their traditional routes by Army in reaching hospitals, market, schools and traditional temples of their clan deities, villagers of more than 22 villages located near Army camp area today demonstrated in front of the office of Pithoragarh District Magistrate demanded opening of their traditional tracks to these places and also handed over a memorandum to Defence Minister, Uttarakhand Chief Minister and other state government higher officials.
“Due to closure of our traditional routes suddenly by the army to our temples, jungles, water bodies and market places, over 10000 villagers of these 22 villages are facing acute inconvenience and agitating from past three months,” said Chandra Shekhar Bhatt, chief priest of Shiva temple at Sera Deval, that is worshiped by these villages.
According to the priest, the devotees led by him have demonstrated before district magistrate several times, met Union Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt, but no headway could be achieved in finding a solution.” All these traditional routes were opened from last half a century, since the union government acquired the major chunk of the land in these villages for army uses, but for the last six months, army suddenly closed these routes,” said Chandra Shekhar Bhatt, the priest.
“Our forefather had agreed to give their precious cultivable land to army for the defence of country, but the army officers have created inconvenience for us by closing the ways to our vital places,” said Mayukh Bhatt, an ex-army person from Bin village.
The priest said that when the army camps were set in this region some 50 years ago, it was assured by high officials of defence ministry that the routes to traditional temples, water fetching areas and to main roads will never be closed.”The promise continued till last year when suddenly the army closed these routes of villagers,” said the priest.
Amit Joshi, a Block Development Committee (BDC) member of Bharakatia village near Army area, said that due to closure of their traditional routes, the villagers are helpless in doing their routine works.
“A patient had to suffer last week, when the ambulance called to take the patient to hospital was disallowed by army guards to pass through its’ area which the villagers earlier used to do,” said Amit Joshi.
Pithoragarh district administration has said that it had convened to army officers, the decision taken in civil- military liaison meet held in Dehradun on October 23 ,last year, in which the higher officers agreed to open the traditional routes for adjoining villagers.”We have taken up the matters with the army officials but they have not yet responded, ” said S.K. Baranwal, Aadditional District Magistrate (ADM), Pithoragarh.
The agitating villagers have said that if these closed routes will not be opened by army soon, they will boycott the up coming parliamentary polls.” If the government fails to give us justice, we will give a call to boycott the coming parliamentary polls,” said Bhim Singh Saun, a villager of Saungaon village and leader of agitation.