With questions being asked on how six terrorists managed to reach Pathankot airbase undetected, the Punjab Police have launched a head count of the Gujjar Muslim community who lives along the nullah that runs next to the airbase.
“We cannot rule out anything at this juncture”, though we do not have any evidence pointing to their role in the entry of terrorists”, said a senior Punjab Police officer involved in the investigations.
What led the cops to gather the information about the community is the almost regular entry of the Gujjars to the air force station for various works.
According to HT news, traditionally, the nomadic community rears cattle and comes down from colder areas in the hills to northern districts of Punjab and lives here in makeshift mud houses near nullahs or choes. However, over the years, many of these families have settled permanently on occupied lands in Hoshiarpur, Gurdaspur and Pathankot districts.
While the locals are “annoyed” that these communities are illegally occupying the village common lands around the airbase and no action is taken to evict them from the area, police also seem helpless in getting these communities to move away.
“These families, almost 70 of them, have been occupying the village common land but no action has been taken against them. We have been complaining against them. They have no accountability and no one knows who comes to meet them,”said Mohan Singh, Dehriwal village panchayat member.
Mohan said they “routinely” went inside the air force station with their animals for grazing in the forest area and are well versed with the contours of the base. “They are checked at the entry, but a single I-card allows several of them inside,” he added.
However, following the recent attack, the state police have asked district chiefs to start a head count of the community members.
“We already have a complete record of the community in Hoshiarpur. Our men are in constant touch with the heads of these settlements,” said Hoshiarpur SSP Dhanpreet Kaur.