New Land Laws Breaking Political Ice in Jammu

Harsh Dev Singh addressing presser in this file photo

Despite government’s “90 percent safe land” assurance, major political parties in Jammu have set the tempo for a new course of action in the province.

FIVE days before the announcement of new land laws by New Delhi for Jammu and Kashmir, over 20 political parties and social organisations held a meeting in Jammu to discuss “certain issues” related to the winter capital.

Convened by Jammu-based senior politician and former minister Harsh Dev Singh of National Panthers Party, the meeting was called a few days after People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) came into being in Kashmir, with “an aim for the restoration of the special status”.

Apart from Panthers Party, the meeting was attended by Dogra Sadar Sabha (DSS) chairman Gulchain Singh Charak, IkkJutt Jammu Chairman Ankur Sharma, Chairman Sainik Samaj Party Col SS Pathania, retired Director Colleges Prof Jai Kumar Sharma, retired Inspector General (IG) Sudhir Singh, leaders of Shiv Sena, Bajrang Dal, United Democratic Alliance (UDI), Batwal Community, and others.

The leaders present in the meeting reportedly expressed concerns over the alleged neglect of Jammu division by the Narendra Modi government and pressed for a separate statehood for the province.

It was for the first time since the abrogation of Article 370 last year that political parties in Jammu came together to press for their demands.

On the heels of the meeting, former chief minister Omar Abdullah said “resentment is growing in Jammu, where people are silent because they don’t want to paint themselves as anti-nationals”.

“A general perception about the people of Jammu is that they welcomed the abrogation of Article 370,” said a Jammu-based politician. “However, like Kashmir, people of Jammu too suffered and have been ditched by the people they voted for.”

Notably, the Narendra Modi government’s decision to remove the special status of Jammu and Kashmir opened the doors for outsiders to buy land and property, get government jobs and attend institutes of higher education.

Before the abrogation, the Article 370 had empowered the government of the former state to define “permanent residents” of Jammu and Kashmir and reserve certain rights for them.

In its latest order, the home ministry 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 new land laws have not gone well with the people of both Jammu Kashmir, and Ladakh, including the political parties except BJP.

Jammu taken for granted

Talking to Kashmir Observer, Harsh Dev Singh said the sole purpose of the October 22 meeting was to discuss ways to protect land, job and other rights of the people of Jammu region.

Government, Singh said, is ignoring Jammu and focusing on Kashmir and Ladakh for “political gains”.

“They’ve taken Jammu for granted,” the Panthers Party leader said. “This government is not listening to the people. Post-abrogation of Article 370, things have been worse for Jammu. We’re being deprived in every sphere. The BJP has cheated the people of Jammu.”

Singh said the recent meeting in Jammu wasn’t against Gupkar Declaration, as reported by some section of media.

“But yes, we aren’t going to support them [Peoples Alliance] since their demand [restoration of Article 370] is in Supreme Court,” Singh said.

New Action Plan Soon

Dogra Sadar Sabha (DSS) Chairman, Gulchain Singh Charak, who participated in the meeting, told Kashmir Observer over phone that they welcomed the abrogation of Article 370 last year.

“Magar badlay mai kia mila humko (What’ve we got in return)?” he asked.

“If you’re deleting the so-called “anti-people” model, then you should tell us about better alternatives? We need to discuss it in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh as well.”

Sabha said people of Jammu were “unhappy with the demotion of the state into UT”.

“The government should come clean and talk to the people and know what they want,” he said.

New land laws, Sabha said, are clear threat to the identity of the people of both Jammu Kashmir, and Ladakh.

“We’ll meet in coming days to decide future course of action,” he said.

Nothing Will Happen

However, Ankur Sharma, chairman IkkJutt Jammu, who participated in the October 22 meeting, told Kashmir Observer that he doesn’t endorse the statement of Harsh Dev Singh regarding the new land laws.

“Nothing will happen,” Sharma said. “These laws will in-turn be helpful for the development and economy of the Jammu region. Kashmiri politicians are peddling this fake propaganda about new land laws. Our identity will remain the same.”

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Auqib Javeed

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

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