Dehradun, July 19, 2015
Nelong Valley near the border with China in Uttarkashi district, falling within the Gangotri National Park, has a unique mountain landscape that is devoid of vegetation, appearing much like the desert of Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir. Closed to tourists after the 1962 war with China, it was reopened for tourism this year. The people of Jadung and Nelong villages were asked to vacate their homes soon after the war and the area was taken over by the Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. Now, villagers say they should be given compensation for the homes and lands they were forced to give up.
Even tourists, however, will not get to visit these evacuated villages - these continue to remain areas under the control of the ITBP and Army, for security reasons. Tourism is restricted up to the Nelong Valley.
Bawani Singh Rana, village head of Baghori village, told TOI, "Villagers would travel to their native villages in Jadung and Nelong in the summer to cultivate lands there and graze cattle. They have, in past decades, been forced to settle permanently in what used to be their winter homes in the plains in Baghori, about 50 km away from their homes. Many villagers even moved further, settling in other villages. We were forced to move out of our homes, but paid no compensation at all. We are meeting local politicians and officials seeking compensation, but have received no news that gives us hope."
Rana said that across the state, whenever land was acquired by the government, people who lost it were handsomely compensated. The state must either pay for the land taken or grant those who lost land and home rehabilitation elsewhere, the village head said. "The state government is going to earn good revenue by re-starting tourism in Nelong Valley. It is only fair that the people who lost their land near the border be compensated," he said.
He said chief minister Harish Rawat had visited their areas recently, but offered no assurance of compensation. He said the chief minister said he was helpless in the matter, as the Central government should act in the matter, given that their land was now under the control of the Army and ITBP.
Govind Singh, a villager from Jadung, said, "We lost the land of our ancestors and our deities. Even now, every year, in the first week of June, our families congregate to pray for our deities. To enter what used to be our own homes, we seek permission from either the sub-divisional magistrate or the patwari. Our families had a shared tradition, a community. Now, we are fragmented and live apart. Our children have lost the bonds our fathers had. Our houses are crumbling from being abandoned for so long."
Courtesy: Times Of India