Srinagar: Notwithstanding the opposition from regional political parties who had formed an alliance to restore Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, the central government on Tuesday has paved way for non-locals to buy land in the new union territory by amending several land laws.
In a gazette notification from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) called the UT of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order, 2020, the Centre has revoked as many as 26 laws and stripped the permanent residents of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh of exclusive rights to acquire and hold property in the erstwhile state.
The decision comes as a consequence of the revocation of “special status” of Jammu and Kashmir through the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A on August 5 last year. Prior to that, no non-local referred to as ‘non-state subjects’ could buy or hold land or any immovable property in the region.
"With immediate effect, the Acts mentioned in the Schedule to this Order shall, until repealed or amended by a competent Legislature or other competent authority, have effect, subject to the adaptations and modifications directed by the said Schedule, or if it is so directed, shall stand repealed," the order said.
According to the order, the changes in the law also bar transfer of agricultural land to non-agriculturists albeit with exceptions on transferring the agricultural land for setting up educational or healthcare facilities.
Former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah censuring the fresh order said that the region is “up for sale”.
“Unacceptable amendments to the land ownership laws of J&K. Even the tokenism of domicile has been done away with when purchasing non-agricultural land & transfer of agricultural land has been made easier. J&K is now up for sale & the poorer small land holding owners will suffer,” Omar tweeted.
The regional political parties, who formed an alliance called People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), termed the order as a “huge betrayal” which is “grossly unconstitutional.”
“The repeal of the Big Estates Abolition Act, first ever agrarian reform in the subcontinent, is an insult to the sacrifices of thousands of freedom fighters and farmers who fought against an autocratic and oppressive rule and a crude attempt to rewrite history. The order made in exercise of powers under the Reorganisation Act, 2019, it is stated, is yet another brazen violation of the principal of constitutional proprietary that is of fundamental importance to a constitutional democracy,” PAGD spokesperson Sajad Lone said.
Lone added that the move is an “assault” on the rights of the people of the region and that the changes in urban development laws and creation of security zones is bound to have prejudicial impact on the environment and ecosystem of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh regions.
The parties who form the Gupkar Alliance include several regional mainstream political parties such as the National Conference (NC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Sajad Lone led People’s Conference, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Awani National Conference (ANC) and Jammu and Kashmir People's Movement (JKPM).
The decision comes a day after the results of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) polls were announced in which the Bharatiya Janata Party won a majority 15 out of 26 seats. The elections were fought after various political parties, religious organisations and rights groups had earlier in September called for the boycott of polls due to fears of losing jobs and land owing to the last August’s move. The parties later went ahead and participated after they were assured of the preservation of these rights.
The decision has also invoked sharp criticism from Altaf Bukhari-led Jammu and Kashmir’s Apni Party, a newly formed regional party which did not participate in the Gupkar Alliance.
Bukhari in a statement said that any law that does not safeguard the interest and rights of the people of J&K would be “unacceptable” to the Apni Party. “Better would have been that such laws of urgent nature should have been left to or dealt with in consultation with the duly elected government in Jammu and Kashmir,” Bukhari said.