J&K Forest Department Destroys Gujjar-owned Apple Orchards in Shopian Alleging Encroachment

Reported by

Mubashir BukhariLand Conflict Watch

Last updated on

May 24, 2021

Location of Conflict



Reason or Cause of Conflict

Forest Administration (Other than Protected Areas)



People Affected by Conflict


Land Area Affected (in Hectares)



Starting Year



Jammu and Kashmir


Conservation and Forestry

In July 2020, the Jammu and Kashmir forest department destroyed apple orchards of five Gujjar families at Sangerwani in Shopian district in south Kashmir. The department alleges that the trees were grown on forestland encroached by the Gujjars, who in turn claim that the land was allotted to them some 40 years ago by the state to grow food. They say that apple cultivation is their only source of livelihood. This land belongs to us, and no one can vacate us from here. If they want to displace us, let them provide us land where we can settle down, Ayoub Khan, a resident of Sangerwani, told LCW. According to the forest department, 5.05 hectares of forestland have been retrieved from encroachers in Sangerwani area. We got information that some people had encroached forestland to grow apple trees. We simply retrieved this land. We will continue the eviction drive until the area is free from encroachment, Shopian District Forest Officer Mohammad Ayoub told LCW. The Gujjars and Bakarwals are recognised in the region as Scheduled Tribes, or forest dwellers under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. Nomads by nature, the communities build temporary huts, called dokas, as they move from place to place in search of fodder for their livestock. The settlement of nomadic communities is often termed as encroachment by the state. Whenever these nomads settle on any common land, they claim traditional right over it and demand ownership. The state, on the other hand, considers them encroachers as they have no legal titles over what the state considers government land. The absence of permanent land to settle in and the lack of legal titles as well as laws to safeguard their interests has left these nomadic communities vulnerable. The FRA recognises the right of forestdwelling communities to live on forestland and cultivate the same and mandates that no forest dweller can be evicted if their claim for rights is pending. But the Act is yet to be implemented in Jammu and Kashmir. On February 13, 2019, the Supreme Court had ordered the eviction of more than one million Scheduled Tribes and forest dwellers in 16 states. The court later stayed its order following an outcry of protests from activists and an intervention from the Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs.  

Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

Demand for legal recognition of land rights, Complaint against procedural violations

Region Classification


Type of Land


Type of Common Land


Total investment involved (in Crores):

Type of investment:

Year of Estimation

Has the Conflict Ended?


When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

Categories of Legislations Involved in the Conflict

Forest and Scheduled Area Governance Laws, Other

Legislations/Policies Involved

Whether claims/objections were made as per procedure in the relevant statute

What was the claim(s)/objection(s) raised by the community? What was the decision of the concerned government department?

Legal Processes and Loopholes Enabling the Conflict:

Forced evictions/ Dispossession of Land, Lack of legal protection over land rights

Legal Status:

Out of Court

Status of Case In Court

Whether any adjudicatory body was approached

Name of the adjudicatory body

Name(s) of the Court(s)

Case Number

Major Human Rights Violations Related to the Conflict:

Whether criminal law was used against protestors

Official name of the criminal law. Did the case reach trial?

Reported Details of the Violation:

Date of Violation

Location of Violation

Nature of Protest


Government Departments Involved in the Conflict:

Forest Department

PSUs Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Government Authorities for Comments?

Name, Designation and Comment of the Government Authorities Approached

District Forest Officer of Shopian Mohammad Ayoub told LCW that the department has retrieved 5.05 hectares of forestland from encroachers in Sangerwani area. “We got information that some people had encroached forestland to grow apple trees. We simply retrieved this land,“ he added.

Corporate Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Did LCW Approach Corporate Parties for Comments?

Name, Designation and Comment of Corporate Authorities Approached

Other Parties Involved in the Conflict:

Resources Related to Conflict

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Documented By

Mubashir Bukhari

Reviewed By

Mubashir Bukhari

Updated By

Mubashir Bukhari

Edited By

Mubashir BukhariLand Conflict Watch

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