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IN an interview to a national daily, the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said that Kashmir and Jammu are the “two eyes” of the Union Territory of J&K, and for the overall progress both have to work together without one being favoured over the other. The LG has assured that the Assembly elections will not be deferred indefinitely and will follow shortly after the delimitation exercise is completed. Sinha also sought to allay fears about the demographic change following the extension of new land laws to J&K saying such apprehensions were “imagined”. The LG reiterated that the agricultural land in J&K that was around 90 per cent of the total land was not up for sale. “Nobody from outside J&K can buy agricultural land. Even within J&K, only agriculturists can buy such land,” he said.

Sinha has made such comments even earlier and his assurances will certainly go some way to to address the deep anxiety in J&K, more so, in Kashmir about an impending demographic change following the issuance of the new domicile and the land laws. But for the people to take the LG at his word, the government would need to demonstrate its sincerity with actions. For example the ongoing eviction drive in parts of the Valley whereby the officials are forcibly retrieving the state land from its alleged occupants has been a source of deep concern.

It is the retrieval of the land, its alleged selectivity in targeting people in the Valley and the consequent politics that has made the drive controversial. Such eviction drives have followed the application of the new land laws and the overturning of the Roshni Act that conferred proprietary rights on the people in occupation of the state land in lieu of the payment to the government on existing market rates. Government has a target of retrieving the lakhs of kanals of such land from the people.

However, there has been some rethink in the administration about the feasibility of such a challenging task. The government has filed a review petition on Roshni Act in HIgh Court which had earlier voided the Act. The government has urged the court to make a differentiation between the poor people and wealthy land grabbers. But there has been no let up in eviction drives. Here’s hoping that the High Court reviews its earlier order and the evictions come to a stop.

As for the Assembly election, the democracy in J&K will be served well if not only the elections to the legislature are held in right earnest but also the statehood to J&K is restored. Actions like these will certainly inspire confidence in Kashmir and give people a reason to re-engage with the system.

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