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Demolition drive against ‘illegal’ commercial complex triggers protests in Kathua

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Kathua/Jammu: Authorities attempted to carry out a demolition drive and partially damaged an “illegal” commercial complex in Jammu and Kashmir’s Kathua district on Friday, prompting traders to stage a protest against the administration.

The owners of the building alleged that the demolition drive was carried out without issuing any notice to them. They added that they have filed a plea in the high court and the hearing is scheduled for Friday.

Amid a heavy deployment of police personnel, men and machines of the Kathua Municipal Council, led by its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Santosh Kotwal, attempted to carry out the demolition drive at the complex located on the Shaheedi chowk road, sources said.

The owner of the building, Mohinder Mahajan, reached the spot and raised objections to the government action. He asked the CEO to show the demolition notice. The CEO failed to produce it, resulting in anger among the traders’ community and triggering protests, the sources said.

Authorities alleged that the owners of the building had bribed officials to raise the structure illegally, resulting in heated arguments between the owners and officials. Police had to intervene to avert a clash between the two sides.

The Beopar Mandal Kathua has voiced concern over the development. Members of the organisation staged a protest against Kathua Deputy Commissioner Rakesh Minhas and raised anti-BJP slogans.

The administration’s move came only a few days after the owners of the building converted the residential complex into a commercial one. The municipal council had served a notice to the building owners.

The matter was under the deputy commissioner’s consideration.

“We have filed an application in the high court. The hearing is scheduled for Friday itself. It is unfortunate that they damaged the structure without issuing any notice,” one of the owners told reporters.

The protesters have sat on a dharna, blocking a highway in the district. Police are requesting them to disperse to ensure a smooth flow of traffic. (PTI)

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