Less than a week after the abrogation of Article 370 by the Union government, and scrapping of Article 35A which extended special privileges to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the local BJP wants some restrictions placed in the state on the purchase of land by “outsiders”, as well as on their appointment in government jobs.
Senior BJP leader Nirmal Singh told The Sunday Express that they want a safeguard like a “domicile” certificate, so as to “protect the interests of locals in respect to land and state jobs”.
While the opposition parties have been talking of land becoming scarce and government appointments more difficult for locals after the August 5 central declaration, the BJP too seems to have sensed that this might gain traction in Jammu after the waning of the initial euphoria.
Though there was some easing of restrictions in Jammu Saturday, official sources said several opposition politicians of the province too have been placed under house arrest. They include Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party chairman Harsh Dev Singh, Dogra Swabhiman Sanghthan founder Choudhary Lal Singh and Congress leader Raman Bhalla, all former ministers. Dev Singh told The Sunday Express he hadn’t been allowed out for four days.
Sources said BJP leaders feel that apprehensions about land laws and jobs need to be addressed before the present restrictions in the state are lifted completely, and the opposition leaders released. It is due to these apprehensions that celebrations even in Jammu have not been as exuberant as were expected over the disbanding of Article 370.
“We have been discussing the matter in view of opposition parties starting a new debate that outsiders will take away our land and the state government jobs following scrapping of Article 370,” Singh, who is the Speaker in the outgoing Legislative Assembly, said.
State BJP chief spokesperson Sunil Sethi claimed that “the government is already working on all issues, including these”. “The mechanism will be in place shortly.”
“Our neighbouring states of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab have certain laws protecting the interests of the local people, including agriculturists,” Nirmal Singh said, adding that Punjab requires a person to have been a resident for at least six years to become eligible for a state government job, while in Himachal, an outsider cannot buy agricultural land. At some other places, there are conditions like one cannot purchase more than 50 per cent of the agricultural landholding of a farmer, he said.
Singh added that the domicile requirement was meant for exigencies like this. “While every Indian has the right to come and settle here (in J&K), at the same time, rights of the local people have to be protected too.” With the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation post-abrogation of Article 370, raising the issue of West Pakistani refugees who have been deprived of basic rights despite living in the state for 70 years, the BJP leader said the domicile clause would not exclude either them or the Balmiki settlers from Punjab.
State BJP president Ravinder Raina told The Sunday Express people need not “panic”, assuring that while J&K may have become a Union Territory, its Assembly would enact own laws safeguarding the interest of locals. Party general secretary Narinder Singh pointed out that even in Pondicherry, which is also a UT with an Assembly, a non-resident cannot buy agricultural land.