Srinagar: Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah, also a former CM, have been named by the union territory administration for allegedly being in illegal possession of state land.
The list in which the Abdullahs have been named was released Tuesday. This is different from the raft of lists released by the administration since Monday naming people who allegedly benefited from the now-scrapped Roshni Act.
Srinagar MP Farooq and Omar are among four individuals accused of illegally encroaching on state land in different locations of Jammu region. The other two listed are prominent businessman Mushtaq Chaya and Ashfaq Mir, a retired justice.
According to the list, issued by the Jammu divisional commissioner’s office, Farooq and Omar Abdullah are in possession of 7.7 kanal (roughly one acre) of government land in Bahur village of Sunjwan region in Jammu.
Contrary to speculation, Farooq has not been named in the Roshni Act lists, although his sister Suraya Abdullah does feature in one issued Tuesday afternoon.
The NC issued a statement Tuesday weighing in on rumours about Farooq’s presence on the Roshni lists, saying they were being spread with a malicious attempt. There has been no statement from the party so far on the father-son duo being named in the non-Roshni list.
“The news attributing to sources that Dr Farooq Abdullah is a beneficiary of the Roshni Act is completely false and is being spread with a malicious intent,” the NC said. “Dr Farooq Abdullah has not availed of the Roshni Scheme for either his residence in Srinagar or in Jammu and anyone who says otherwise is lying. The fact that they are using sources to plant this story shows that it has no legs to stand on.”
ThePrint reached NC spokesman Imran Dar, who also handles the media for Farooq Abdullah, through phone calls and WhatsApp, but received no response. Attempts were also made to get a comment from Tanvir Sadiq, who serves as political adviser to Omar Abdullah and handles press for him, by calls and WhatsApp, but he didn’t respond either. There was no response to a WhatsApp message sent to Omar.
What the controversy is about
The Jammu & Kashmir administration has been releasing the Roshni and non-Roshni lists since all land transfers under the controversial Jammu and Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001, were scrapped by the union territory administration last month.
The administration’s decision came after the Jammu & Kashmir High Court, on 9 October, declared the Act unconstitutional, contrary to law and unsustainable.
The Act was enacted by the erstwhile Farooq Abdullah government in 2001. Under the Act, encroachments on state land had to be regularised or legally transferred to the occupants against payment at market rates. The Act had set 1990 as the cut-off year for encroachment. The idea was to raise Rs 25,000 crore to build infrastructure for electricity. Hence, it came to be known as the Roshni Act. Subsequent governments under the PDP and the Congress extended the cut-off date to 2007.
In 2018, former J&K governor Satya Pal Malik had repealed the Roshni Act, but this only affected pending applications. The high court order changed that.
In a statement announcing the scrapping of land transferred, the J&K government said, “Principal Secretary to government, Revenue Department shall also work out the modalities and plan to evict encroachers from such State Land and retrieve the State land within a period of six months. Principal Secretary to Government, Revenue Department, shall work out modalities for handling the money received for these lands after annulment.”
According to the order, complete identities of influential persons, including ministers, legislators, bureaucrats, government officials, police officers, businessmen etc, their relatives or persons holding benami for them, who “have derived benefit” under the Roshni Act, were to be made public within a period of one month.
Allegation against Suraya
Named in one of the Roshni lists by the Kashmir divisional commissioner’s office, Suraya is said to be in possession of around 3.12 kanal of state land in Srinagar’s Sonwar area. The case is listed as “unsettled”.
The same list also names senior PDP leader Dr Mehboob Afzal Baig for being in possession of over 3 kanal land in the Narsing Garh area of Srinagar.
Another list from the Kashmir divisional commissioner’s office contains 101 settled Roshni cases and 31 unsettled Roshni cases. Deceased Kashmiri poet Aga Shahid Ali has been named as one of the beneficiaries of Roshni Act.
Meanwhile, the Jammu divisional commissioner’s office has issued eight lists since Monday. While four name beneficiaries of Roshni Act, the rest include names of individuals allegedly in illegal possession of state land.
One of the longest lists issued by the Jammu administration names 854 individuals in Jammu region, including farmers, businessmen, ex-servicemen, government employees, labourers and drivers. This doesn’t pertain to land transfers under the Roshni Act.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.