Hours after the Centre amended laws allowing people from outside Jammu and Kashmir to buy land in the Union Territory, former chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said the government has put “J&K on sale” and has done away with “even the tokenism of domicile”.
Over a year after the special status of the then state of Jammu and Kashmir was scrapped on August 5, 2019, the Ministry of Home Affairs Tuesday made several changes to the land laws, including allowing use of agricultural land for setting up facilities of public purpose.
In the recent amendment, the Centre has omitted the phrase “permanent resident of the state” from Section 17 of the Jammu and Kashmir Development Act that deals with disposal of land in the UT, essentially allowing non-residents to buy land there.
Several exemptions in the Act, however, enable transfer of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, including setting up of educational or health care facilities.
Slamming the new land laws, Abdullah said the newly introduced JK Development Act, which has come into force with immediate effect, was “hostile to the interests of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh”.
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 Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) October 27, 2020
He said that with these new laws, “tokenism of the domicile certificate has been done away with as purchasing non-agricultural land has been made easier. These new laws are unacceptable to people of JK and Ladakh”.
Accusing the BJP of indulging in opportunistic politics, Omar said the issuance of the amended land rules notification smacks of its cheap politics and deceit.
“Interestingly the Centre waited till the elections to LAHDC had concluded and the BJP had won a majority before putting Ladakh also up for sale. This is what Ladakhis got for trusting the assurances of the BJP,” he said.
The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) — an amalgam of seven mainstream parties in Jammu and Kashmir formed to restore the constitutional rights of Jammu and Kashmir as existed before August 5, 2019– condemned the changes in the land laws and vowed to fight these on all fronts.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, who has been elected the Vice Chairman of the PAGD, said it was a step to “disenfranchise” the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
“Yet another step that’s part of GOI’s nefarious designs to disempower & disenfranchise people of JK. From the unconstitutional scrapping of Article 370 to facilitating loot of our natural resources and finally putting land in JK up for sale,” she tweeted.
The government’s notification has replaced Section 30 and Part VII of the State Land Acquisition Act of 1990 with the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. The other major laws repealed by the notification includes the J&K Big Landed Estates (abolition) Act, a landmark act brought in by Sheikh Abdullah that gave land rights to landless tillers.
The JK Alienation of Land Act, 1995, the JK Common Lands (regulation) Act, 1956 and the JK Consolidation of Holdings Act, 1962 were also repealed.
Other laws to be repealed are the J&K Prevention of Fragmentation of Agricultural Holdings Act, 1960; JK Prohibition on Conversion of Land and Alienation of Orchards Act, 1975; the JK Right of Prior Purchase ACT, 1936 A.D; Section 3 of the J&K Tenancy (Stay of Ejectment Proceedings) Act 1966; the JK Utilisation of Land Act, 2010; and the J&K Underground Utilities (Acquisition of rights of user in land) Act.
The notification also maintains that government on the written request of an Army officer not below the rank of Corp Commander may declare an area as “strategic area” within a local area, only for direct operational and training requirements of armed forces, which may be excluded from the operation of this Act and rules and regulations made there under in the manner and to the extent.
(Inputs from PTI)