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J&K: Centre calls separatists’ bluff, allows all to buy land in state

Virendra Pandit 

New Delhi: In swift moves after the release of the Abdullahs, Muftis and their covert and overt supporters within Jammu and Kashmir and outside, the Centre on Tuesday allowed all Indians to buy land and property in the border state, in what is seen as the most important step taken so far to call the bluff of separatist anti-Indians funded, sponsored and supported by Pakistan.

The move, which comes into effect immediately, is set to change the Muslim-dominated Valley’s demography and weaken the hold of ‘democrats’, ‘seculars’, separatists, militants, and terrorists—who are all different and graded versions of pro-Pakistan elements.

Simultaneously, the Centre declared 18 more individuals, based out of Pakistan, as designated terrorists under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967. The list released by the Ministry of Home Affairs included Dawood Ibrahim’s henchman Chhota Shakil, LeT chief Hafeez Saeed’s brother-in-law Yusuf Azhar and Tiger Memon, among others.

In a significant move, the Centre on Tuesday gazette-notified new land laws for Jammu and Kashmir, paving the way for any Indian citizen to buy land in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. Earlier, nobody from outside the state could buy land due to Article 35-A, which was also abrogated, along with Article 370, in August 2019.

The new law called the Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order, 2020 comes into force with immediate effect.

On August 5, 2019, the NDA government had abrogated Article 370 which accorded a “special status” to the erstwhile state, bifurcating it into separate Union Territories of Ladakh and Jammu & Kashmir.

Earlier, Article 35-A prohibited the purchase of land for citizens from other parts of India. It also allowed the J&K legislature to define permanent residents of the state and only those who were eligible could purchase land or property.

In another order, the Centre repealed 12 state laws as a whole, and others out of 26 adapted with changes or substitutes. These include The Jammu and Kashmir Alienation of Land Act, Jammu and Kashmir Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, Jammu and Kashmir Common Lands (Regulation) Act 1956, Jammu and Kashmir Consolidation of Holdings Act 1962, Jammu and Kashmir Right of Prior Purchase Act,  and Jammu and Kashmir Utilization of Lands Act. In all, the Centre has substituted 26 state laws.

Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant-Governor Manoj Sinha clarified that the new land laws being introduced in the Union Territory will not impact agricultural land. He told reporters in Srinagar that the decision was taken to encourage industries that will create job opportunities.

“I want to say this forcefully and with full responsibility that agricultural land has been kept reserved for farmers; no outsider will come on those lands. The industrial areas that we have defined, we want that like rest of the country, here too industries come so that Jammu & Kashmir also develops and employment is generated.”

The Centre said that after its fresh notification, a domicile certificate will not be needed to buy land in Jammu and Kashmir. “Non-agricultural land in municipal areas of Jammu and Kashmir can now be bought by anyone. There is no domicile requirement after this notification,” a government official said.

The notification issued by MHA also said that the government can now, on the written request of an Army officer not below the rank of Corp Commander, 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 thereunder in the manner and to the extent.

Reacting to the Centre’s fresh notification, former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted: “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 landholding owners will suffer.”

A loser’s lamentations!