On 31st October, Jammu & Kashmir was shrouded in an eerie silence, as it has been following the communication blackouts in the wake of the abrogation of Articles 370 & 35-A. Normal life in the erstwhile state was disrupted after the Hurriyat conference called for a shutdown in protest of the recent land rules issued by the Central Government. But, what is with the controversy behind these new land rules?
What do the new rules state?
The Centre, on 27th October, notified new land rules and changed the earlier ones apropos of Jammu and Kashmir. Under the aegis of these new arrangements, it will be possible for any Indian citizen to purchase non-agricultural land in Jammu and Kashmir, without the prerequisite of being a domicile or permanent resident of the UT. The GOI also notified the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act 2016 that streamlines the process of acquiring land in J&K by all Indian citizens. This is a controversial move as, earlier, only those who were permanent state subjects were permitted to buy and sell land in the UT.
Are there any limits for the acquisition of land?
Jammu and Kashmir has not been granted the security with regards to the quantum of area for utilisation, such as that in Himachal Pradesh. Meaning that the Centre’s order doesn’t place a ceiling on the area of land permissible to purchase/utilise. Some protections have been granted for the sale of agricultural land. Though the government order states that agricultural land shall not be granted to anyone except for agriculturalists and individuals engaged in farm-related activities, if someone wishes to open an industry, they can acquire a permit from the government. Similarly, agricultural land shall not be gifted, sold or mortgaged to anyone without the government’s approval.
Land open for strategic purposes
The recent ruling also states that the government can, on the request of an Army officer not below the rank of a corps commander, declare any region as ‘strategic’ and reserve it for direct operational and training requirements of the armed forces.
The Kashmiris’ greatest shocker
Amidst debates over the predicted success of these land rules, what has taken the Kashmiri people by the greatest surprise is the Centre’s decision to scrap the Big Land Estate Abolition Act, 1950, which is touted to have brought about radical land redistribution in the erstwhile State. As part of Sheikh Abdullah’s Naya Kashmir programme, this law was behind increased rural prosperity and an end to landlordism in Kashmir. In line with the former Chief Minister’s socialist vision, this law was lauded by national, as well as international, political and economic experts.
Politics over the revised regulations
These land rules have taken centre stage in a raging debate between political parties across the spectrum. Manoj Sinha, the Lieutenant Governor of J&K, and a leader of the BJP has bravoed the Central Government’s ‘bold’ move, seeing it as a chance to introduce industries in the UT, thereby increasing employment and bringing about economic development. On the contrary, many J&K leaders have harshly condemned the move, calling these amendments “unacceptable”. Former CM, Omar Abdullah, remarked that these rules are “dictatorial”, “a betrayal to Kashmiri people and “will put up Jammu and Kashmir for sale”. PDP President, Mehbooba Mufti, called it a part of the GOI’S “nefarious scheme to disempower and disenfranchise the people of J&K”. Many are also voicing their concerns about the impact of new settlements on the ecosystem and environment in environmentally fragile zones in the UT.
Whether these land rules are a boon or a bane will only be clear when they are put into effect.
This article has been written by Ishaan Singh for The Paradigm
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