The newly-formed People’s Alliance for the Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) on Tuesday strongly condemned the Centre's move to allow people from outside Jammu and Kashmir to buy land in the union territory by amending several laws, over a year after the nullification of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution.
The Home Ministry had notified the new laws in official gazette on Monday to repeal the J&K Land Laws to strip permanent residents of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh of the exclusive right to acquire and hold immovable property in the erstwhile state. 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 the land in the union territory.
PAGD spokesperson Sajad Lone termed the Centre's move as a "huge betrayal". Lone said that it was a "massive assault" on the rights of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and "grossly unconstitutional". "The Alliance has vowed to fight the step that is against Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh on all fronts," he said in a statement.
"The repeal of Big Estates Abolition Act - 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. The order made in exercise of powers under the Reorganisation Act, 2019, is yet another brazen violation of the principle of constitutional proprietary of fundamental importance to a constitutional democracy," he added
"The unconstitutional measure is clearly designed as an attempt to preempt the outcome of the challenge before the Supreme Court. The assault on exclusive property rights apart, changes in urban development laws and creation of security zones is bound to prejudicially affect environment and ecosystem in environmentally fragile regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh in utter disregard of grave environmental concerns," Lone further added.
The move has also triggered sharp criticism from the former Chief Ministers of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti called it "yet another step that's part of GOI’s nefarious designs to disempower & disenfranchise people of J&K". She added, "From the unconstitutional scrapping of Article 370 to facilitating loot of our natural resources & finally putting land in J&K up for sale."
The former Chief Minister further said, "After failing on all fronts to provide roti & rozgar to people, BJP is creating such laws to whet the appetite of a gullible electorate." "Such brazen measures reinforces the need of people of all three provinces of J&K to fight unitedly," she added.
National Conference leader and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah called Centre's move "unacceptable". Taking to Twitter, he wrote, "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," he added.
Before the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A in August last year, non-residents could not buy any immovable property in Jammu and Kashmir. However, the fresh changes have paved the way for non-residents to buy land in the union territory.
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha told reporters that the amendments did not allow transfer of agricultural land to non-agriculturists.
However, there are several exemptions in the Act which enable transfer of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, including setting up of educational or health care facilities.
Former Advocate General Mohammad Ishaq Qadri said the amendments have opened floodgates for people from outside Jammu and Kashmir to buy lands. "Now there is no legal bar on purchase of land here by outsiders," he said.
(With input from agencies)