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)




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.  

Region Classification


Type of Land


Private and Common

Type of Common Land


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Starting Year


Demand/Contention of the Affected Community

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

Government Bodies Involved in the Conflict:

Forest Department

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.

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Has the Conflict Ended?


When did it end?

Why did the conflict end?

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