Srinagar: The regional political parties of Jammu and Kashmir have launched a scathing attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party and the central government after land laws that restricted ownership rights to local residents were repealed through a notification Tuesday.
The notification makes it possible for anyone in India to buy land in J&K, though certain conditions apply.
Parties in both Jammu and Kashmir regions accused the Centre of putting J&K on sale, and said the move was aimed at undoing the legacy of land reform ushered in by J&K’s former ‘prime minister’ and chief minister, National Conference founder Sheikh Abdullah.
The repeal of laws comes at a time when regional and national parties have been making an effort to come together and form an alliance that aims to work towards reversing last year’s decision to revoke the special status of J&K and bifurcate the state into two union territories.
‘Assault on rights of people’
This alliance, called the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), termed the Ministry of Home Affairs order a “huge betrayal”, and said the “grossly unconstitutional move” was “a massive assault on the rights of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh”.
“The repeal of the Big Estates Abolition Act — the 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,” said Sajad Lone, president of the People’s Conference and spokesperson of the PAGD.
“The order made in exercise of powers under Reorganisation Act, 2019, it is stated, is yet another brazen violation of the principal of constitutional proprietary of fundamental importance to a constitutional democracy,” Lone said.
National Conference general secretary Ali Muhammad Sagar said the move was aimed at undoing the legacy of Sheikh Abdullah.
“There is no doubt that the move is against the very spirit of land reforms ushered by Sher-i-Kashmir Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. The land reforms were meant for the hard working people of Kashmir, who now face the threat of a demographic change. This is extremely unfortunate,” Sagar told ThePrint.
Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), another constituent of the PAGD, compared the decision to the one taken by the Dogra regime in 1927. Its leader Naeem Akhtar said the day chosen by the government to “disempower” the people of J&K by ushering in the new land laws is symbolic.
“In 1927, the Dogra regime passed laws that barred J&K residents from owning property, thus giving open fields to land sharks from Punjab and Haryana. It was significant because Muslims did not hold land, and the move was to further prevent them from doing so. Something similar is unfolding a century later,” Akhtar said.
“On 27 October 1947, Indian troops had landed in Kashmir to fight raiders (Pakistani tribesmen). It is symbolic that this decision of disempowering us has come on the same day 73 years later,” Akhtar said.
He further said that it was “pathetic” that a country of over a billion people was “betraying the tiny population” of J&K that had displayed trust in the idea of India.
Support from Jammu
The Kashmiri politicians’ words were also echoed in the Hindu-majority Jammu region of the union territory.
Jammu-based National Panthers Party’s chairman Harsh Dev Singh told ThePrint, “The BJP has put J&K on sale. They had said that jobs and lands will be protected. Both jobs and land are being taken away.”
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