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J&K: Land Order Draws Widespread Flak, Parties Term it ‘Draconian’

Anees Zargar |
The order to remove all ‘encroachments’ on state land has triggered fear and anxiety among many who see it as part of the Centre’s ‘larger plan’ to disempower J&K people.

Srinagar: The government’s recent order to remove all encroachments on state land, including under the annulled Roshni Act, has drawn criticism in Jammu and Kashmir with many calling for the rollback of order that they say will make people homeless.

Several political workers from Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the newly formed Ghulam Nabi Azad-led Democratic Azad Party (DAP) held separate protests in Jammu against the eviction drive that they termed was a “draconian” and “anti-people policy”.

The workers from DAP held a protest at Panama Chowk in Jammu where they raised slogans, such as  “Land Order Wapis Karo” (Take Back the Land Order) and later submitted a memorandum at the Divisional Commissioner’s office calling the order unfair.

The order has triggered a sense of fear and anxiety amongst many in the region who see the decision as a part of the ‘larger plan’ to disempower people from the Union territory.

National Conference spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar told NewsClick that the government order is aimed to make people “homeless”.

“This is not how a welfare state operates by threatening and harassing poor people who have constructed houses on their own. Across the country, the government is helping construct houses for the poor. But here the opposite is being done. The matter regarding Roshni scheme is sub judice, besides such decisions should be made by a popular government and not by this make shift arrangement,” he said.

The National Conference in a statement said that senior party leader and Member of Parliament Hasnain Masoodi called on Lt Governor to raised several issues including the land order. A party spokesperson said Masoodi demanded the revocation of the circular “as the Constitutional and possessory rights of the affected were likely to be infringed by the proposed action”.

The Jammu and Kashmir government has directed all the Deputy Commissioners to ensure complete removal of encroachments from State land including Roshni and Kahcharai by the end of January and sought a compliance report. The order was issued on January 9 following a virtual meeting held on December 15. This despite the fact that there are review petitions challenging the a judgment regarding Roshni Act pending before the High Court of J&K and Ladakh. Following the order, a Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud agreed to hear an urgent petition against the land retrieval order.

CPI (M) leader Mohamad Yousuf Tarigami also voiced “deep concern” over the government's move of divesting the people of the land registered under various titles in revenue records across Jammu and Kashmir.

He said that the administration is “blind” toward the destruction of the livelihood of the rural poor. The move, Tarigami added, was not only bound to render thousands of people roofless, but also divest many of cultivation rights.

“It is rather unfortunate that the government has mobilised all its machinery to dispossess the poor and excluded of the land registered as KahchairiShamilat and so on. The people who are living off this land have found themselves in a bind after the government's recent order,” he said.

Such orders, he claimed, have raised fear among the people about losing their land to the non-locals. He urged non-BJP political parties to come together and “fight” the move.

The Roshni Act, an unofficial name for the Jammu and Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership Rights to Occupants) Act, was enacted in 2001 under the Farooq Abdullah-led National Conference government. The NC government had decided to regularise occupied or encroached land property in the region against compensation with which the government expected to raise funds for investments in power sector and financing hydel-power projects, and therefore, the scheme was called “Roshni”. It was finally termed “illegal” by a court order in 2020.

“Laws are created for the welfare of public, but in J&K they are weaponised to disempower, humiliate and punish. This latest diktat was issued because despite GOI misusing all the agencies at its disposal and unleashing draconian laws, aren’t getting the desired results,” PDP president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted.

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