Centre unlocks the land, now outsiders can buy land in Jammu and Kashmir

Any person from outside Jammu & Kashmir can now buy land in the UT, which till now was exclusively meant for its permanent residents and residents with a domicile certificate.

In a significant move on Tuesday, the Central government has introduced amendments to enable Indian citizens living outside Jammu and Kashmir to buy land in the Union Territory. Under the new law that is implemented in Jammu and Kashmir with immediate effect, anybody who is a resident of India can now buy land in the Union territory of J&K.

With the passage of the new law called Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Fifth Order, 2020, the Centre has paved way for people across the Indian territories to buy land in Jammu and Kashmir. The Ministry of Home Affairs has made several changes in the land laws of the Union territory. These changes allow non-Kashmiris to buy non-agricultural land in J&K. However, it’s interesting to note that the new land laws have not been applied to the Union territory of Ladakh.

Last year in 2019, the Narendra Modi government had removed the special status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, which allowed outsiders to buy land and property, join government jobs, and attend educational institutions in the state. After revoking special status, the government converted the state into union territory.

Centre omits ‘permanent resident’ as a criterion:

The Central Government of India has passed a new land law about the land laws of Jammu and Kashmir and allowed the residents of any state of India to purchase urban land and immovable property in Jammu and Kashmir. The move has been initiated to integrate Jammu and Kashmir with the rest of the country.

Earlier, with the state’s special powers under Article 370 of the Constitution, only residents of Jammu and Kashmir were allowed to purchase land in the state. But, last year, on August 5, with the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A of the Constitution, the Central government scrapped the special status of the state and bifurcated the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories.

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 the disposal of land in the Union Territory, essentially allowing non-residents to buy land there. Under the new laws, 12 state laws have been repealed as a whole and 26 others have been adapted with changes or substitutes.

The Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha, later clarified that the new land laws regarding J&K will not apply to agricultural land of the Union territory. He further said that the agricultural land has been reserved for farmers, and no outsider will be allowed to have possession over those lands.

However, it is important to note that there are several exemptions in the Act which enable the transfer of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, such as setting up of factories, educational institutions, and health care facilities.

Gupkar alliance opposes new J&K land laws:

The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) is an amalgam of around seven mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir, aimed to safeguard and restore special status and Article 35A, which was provided to the state of J&K by the constitution of India. The alliance was originally formed as Gupkar Declaration, a political movement by the major political parties of the state on August 4, 2019, a day before the special status of the state was revoked by the parliament.

As soon as the Central government notified that several changes have been made to the land laws of Jammu and Kashmir, the PAGD opposed the new land laws and condemned the Centre’s move allowing all Indians to buy land in J&K.

Sajad Lone, the PAGD spokesperson, commented, “We strongly condemn the repealing of the Jammu and Kashmir land laws and stripping the permanent residents of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh of exclusive right to acquire and hold immovable property.” He further added that the move by the Central government is a massive assault and is grossly unconstitutional. He then stated that the PAGD was formed to protect the rights of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and therefore, the alliance has vowed to fight the anti-Jammu and Kashmir sentiment of the Centre.

CPI(M) leader M.Y. Tarigami said, “The move is a design to disempower the people of J&K further and put their land on sale for the corporations.” He added by saying, “It is a daylight robbery of land in the name of integration, development, and security.”

Here is Gupkar alliance’s full statement:

Omar and Mufti react to new land laws:

The amendment to J&K land laws has been condemned by several Kashmiri leaders. Reacting to the new laws, Omar Abdullah, Vice-President of National Conference said that the new land laws are totally unacceptable. Omar even tweeted, “Jammu and Kashmir is now for sale and the poorer small landholding owners will suffer.”

Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, too, criticised the Centre’s decision and said, “Such brazen measures reinforce the need of people of all three provinces of J&K to fight united.” She also further claimed that the BJP government has failed to provide food and employment to the people of J&K and therefore is now switching to other tactics.

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