The Government of India, through a gazette notification released by the Ministry of Home Affairs on October 26, 2020, has paved the way for any Indian to buy land in Jammu and Kashmir. The notification, called “Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Fifth Order, 2020”, will come into immediate effect. This change has been condemned by the political parties in Jammu and Kashmir.
While the Government of India through this notification has completely repealed 12 state laws, several changes were made in 14 other state Acts as well. The completely repealed laws include the Jammu & Kashmir Alienation of Land Act, the Jammu & Kashmir Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, the Jammu & Kashmir Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1956, the Jammu & Kashmir Consolidation of Holdings Act, 1962, among others.
According to the notification, the J&K Land Revenue Act, 1996, has been amended to enable purchase of land by any Indian in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, except for agricultural land. However, agriculture land can be sold to a non-agriculturist by getting permission from the government.
Amendments to the J&K Civil Services Decentralization and Recruitment Act notes that “spouse of a domicile shall also be deemed to be a domicile”. Amendments to the J&K Development Act, 1970 paves the way for declaring an area in J&K as a ‘strategic area’ by an Army officer not below the rank of Corp Commander “only for direct operational and training requirements of armed forces”.
Hindustan Times has quoted J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina as saying that, “J&K is an integral part of India. If a citizen of J&K can purchase land, establish businesses and live in any part of the country then why cannot a citizen of India live in J&K? Any citizen of India is entitled to live in J&K because J&K is an integral and inseparable part of India. There is nothing wrong in it.” It also quoted former deputy chief minister Kavinder Gupta, who said “If we can go and settle anywhere and purchase land, then why cannot they? It has strengthened our slogan of ‘one India’. Earlier, when Article 370 existed, our daughters getting married to outsiders were deprived of their right to property in J&K.”
Several leaders cutting across the political spectrum in Jammu and Kashmir have voiced their opposition to the new gazette notification.
Former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah has tweeted, saying “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.”
The newly formed People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) has issued a statement condemning the grant of property to non-state subjects. The statement issued by PAGD spokesperson and People’s Conference chief Sajad Lone noted that the MHA Order “is a massive assault on the rights of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and grossly unconstitutional.”
Mehbooba Mufti, former J&K chief minister and chief of Peoples Democratic Party, has also raised concerns. “Yet another step that’s part of GOI’s nefarious designs to disempower & disenfranchise people of J&K. From the unconstitutional scrapping of Article 370 to facilitating loot of our natural resources & finally putting land in J&K up for sale. After failing on all fronts to provide roti & rozgar to people, BJP is creating such laws to whet the appetite of a gullible electorate. Such brazen measures reinforces the need of people of all three provinces of J&K to fight unitedly”, she tweeted.
Indian National Congress has put out a statement in which it accused the BJP of betraying the people of J&K, “as time and again the people were assured that their rights to land and jobs shall be protected at all costs, even after the abrogation of Article 370. Now the cat is out of the bag and people, especially the youth, feel cheated.”
P.S. You can read the MHA’s gazette notification (both in Hindi and English) here.