Tosamaidan (J-K): Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has said that the army's lease for the field firing range in the famous meadow of Tosamaidan in central Kashmir's Budgam district would not be renewed and the area would be opened for tourism.
“The lease has not been renewed. We are in discussions with the army... they understand that the lease for Tosamaidan is not likely to be renewed. We want to open this area for tourism and that is exactly why the army has demined this area,” Omar told reporters here today. The chief minister, however, said that even after the area is thrown open to public, the army would continue to have a presence there for security reasons.
“There will be an army presence because there is a security requirement... But it will not be used as a field firing range,” he said.
The state government has already identified alternatives for the army in place of Tosamaidan, but the decision on the matter was delayed due to last month's floods in the state, Omar said.
“We will find an alternative for them. A couple of sites have been identified. If it weren't for the fact that we lost almost two months of regular government work to the floods, we would have taken this decision in the Cabinet and handed over an alternative to them.
“I am sure that the moment the (J-K Assembly) elections are over, this will be done,” he said.
As to the army's criticism of the state government in the matter of renewal of the lease of a firing range in Jammu, Omar said the problem arose because the army wanted all such issues to be settled at one go, which was not possible.
“It is a slightly complicated issue. Basically, we were in the process of exchanging land in Jammu for Jammu airport for which they (army) were given alternative land in the Sunjwan area of Jammu. Now, at some level in the army, a decision was taken that they did not want to take the Sunjwan-airport exchange as a standalone issue.
“They wanted all the army land issues to be brought under one umbrella and dealt with together. The moment that was done, then the field range issues came under one umbrella and we were not able to deal with it as a standalone issue,” he said.
The chief minister said the moment the army starts dealing with these land issues as standalone issues, the government would have no problem.
“The moment the army starts dealing with these land issues as standalone issues - the airport-Sunjwan issue separately, the field firing range separately, Gulmarg and Sonamarg separately, we will have no problem.
“The problem arose because somebody decided that they wanted all army land issues to be settled at one go, which was not possible,” Omar said.