‘Kashmir Up For Sale’: J&K, Ladakh Unionists Slam New Land Laws

“Yeh khatre ki ghanti hai (this is an alarming situation),” Singh said, while reacting to the new land laws adding that the political parties in Jammu will think about it.

DESPITE his one-man protest amid pernicious pandemic to secure land and job rights for the youth of Jammu and Kashmir, Harsh Dev Singh feels a big letdown after New Delhi on Tuesday went ahead to notify new land laws for Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, making it possible for any Indian citizen to buy land in the region.

The same laws have empowered the armed forces to declare any area as strategic and use it for their operational and training purposes.

The move has sparked fears of “demographic change” among locals, even as the regional unionist camp has upped its ante against New Delhi’s new steps in the former state.

“This is an obnoxious move,” Singh, a senior Panthers Party leader, told Kashmir Observer. “Nothing is safe now, neither land nor jobs.”

Singh, who was Minister for Education in the Mufti Mohammad Sayeed led government, earlier staged several protest demonstrations along with the other party members against what they called “sheer betrayal” by the BJP government with the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Yeh khatre ki ghanti hai (this is an alarming situation),” Singh said, while reacting to the new land laws adding that the political parties in Jammu will think about it.

“It’s an assault on our cultural identity,” he added. “First, the job right of our youth was snatched and now, land rights too, and the time will come when we will become slaves of outsiders.”

Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) chief spokesperson Ravinder Sharma told Kashmir Observer that Congress has opposed it from the day one and have demanded protections of job and land rights but BJP time and again has betrayed the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Majority of people especially youth in Jammu are opposing it and have understood that BJP has deceived them,” Sharma said.

Narendra Modi-led NDA government’s decision to remove the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019 opened the door for outsiders to buy land and property, get government jobs and attend institutes of higher education in the erstwhile state. Earlier, the semiautonomous status of J&K had empowered the local government to define “permanent residents” of Jammu and Kashmir and reserve certain rights for them.

In its latest order, the union home ministry has said the new laws will be called the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order, 2020. It added that it will come into effect immediately.

However, the law has not gone well with the people of both the union territories including the political parties except BJP.

Mood in Ladakh

A day after voting BJP to power in Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC) polls, Ladakh is demanding the protection of job and land rights.

“We are demanding sixth schedule for a reason because it will protect our job and land rights,” ex-BJP Ladakh chief Chering Dorjay, who resigned from the party in the month of May, told Kashmir Observer.

Dorjay said Home Minister Amit Shah on September 27 had assured them that the Centre will provide sixth schedule to the Ladakh UT after the LAHDC elections.

It may be noted on September 22, all political and religious bodies in the Buddhist-dominated Leh district unanimously decided against participating in the hill council elections over their demand for bringing the region under the ambit of provisions of the sixth schedule of the Constitution.

Few days later, Amit Shah held a meeting in New Delhi with the public representatives of Ladakh and discussed various issues concerning the union territory.

The BJP later decided to contest the elections after assurance from the HM that their issues will be addressed.

On October 26, BJP won the election to the 26-member LAHDC)-Leh by bagging 15 seats.

“Let’s see whether New Delhi fulfills its promise to us or not, then accordingly we will decide the future course of action,” Dorjay said.

He said they were told that they will be called to New Delhi 15 days after the hill elections are over.

“But I must tell you their (New Delhi’s) intention is not good so let’s hope for the best,” he added.

However, Jamyang Tsering Namgyal, MP and BJP president in Ladakh, said no one can buy the land both in Leh and Kargil without the approval of hill councils.

“Hill councils are still very powerful and can approve or disapprove any act,” Namgyal told Kashmir Observer.

Cry in Valley

Almost all the political parties in Kashmir rejected the new laws and slammed the ruling BJP for putting the region for “sale” now.

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah criticised the amendments.

“Unacceptable amendments to the land ownership laws of Jammu and Kashmir,” he tweeted. “Even the tokenism of domicile has been done away with when purchasing non-agricultural land and transfer of agricultural land has been made easier. J&K is now up for sale and the poorer small land holding owners will suffer.”

Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said the recent amendments were done to disempower and disenfranchise people of J&K.

“Yet another step that’s part of GOI’s nefarious designs to disempower & disenfranchise people of J&K,” Mufti wrote on her twitter handle. “From the unconstitutional scrapping of Article 370 to facilitating loot of our natural resources & finally putting land in J&K up for sale.”

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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