In Kashmir, Cantonment Tax Notices Have Created New Anxiety

“Let me clarify that there’s no proposal to impose the property tax in Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory,” LG Manoj Sinha had said.

WHEN a property tax bill worth Rs. 20,142 was delivered to his Indira Nagar residence recently, Manzoor Wani became anxious and started enquiring from his neighbours — if they received it too. A call here and there confirmed that he wasn’t the only one getting the bill.

Those living under the Badami Bagh Cantonment Board (BBCB) have received the property tax notices from the BB Cant board.

The bills have been charged as per the value of the property and range from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 20,000.

“Nobody is paying property taxes in any place in Kashmir, so why’re we paying it,” Wani told Kashmir Observer.

“We’ve been receiving these notices since the years and have approached the court to sort out the issue. But after the abrogation of Article 370, the matter was pending in the court. Now, again, they’ve asked us to pay the property bills despite the assurance given by the Lieutenant Governor.”

On October 20, 2020, LG Manoj Sinha said the government will not impose any property tax in Jammu and Kashmir.

“Let me clarify that there’s no proposal to impose the property tax in Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory,” Sinha had said.

But the residents of Sonawar, Indira Nagar, Batwara and Shivopora expressed dismay over issuing of these notices and have castigated the cantonment board for “pressurizing” them to pay the taxes “we don’t deserve to give”.

‘No Construction Zone’

Apart from taxes, the locals said they’ve been banned for carrying out any construction in the area since 2019.

Notably, the J&K administration has banned constructions and repair works in the vicinity of army’s field ordnance depots in Kashmir.

The notifications banning the works, unless approved by the army and the government, have been issued by the district commissioners under the provisions of Works of Defence Act (WODA), 1903.

Following the notification, the people of Indira Nagar locality were asked that no construction shall be made or altered in the area lying 500 yards from the outer crest of 2-Field Ordnance Depot (FOD), without prior approval of the deputy commissioner and General Officer Commanding.

“We’re living in an open air prison,” Tariq Ahmad, a resident of Sonwar, told Kashmir Observer. “We can’t buy or sell anything. We can’t even repair our washrooms. The board has made our lives hell.”

Tariq said he had kept a piece of land for his daughter’s wedding but right now he’s unable to sell it due to board laws.

“We can’t even raise our voice against the decision,” he said. “You never know what will happen tomorrow.”

‘Stop It Now’

Amid this anguish, the BJP’s Kashmir unit on Thursday said the prevailing situation is not conducive for collecting property taxes.

“From the past two years, the financial condition of people is not good and such steps will further create panic in the middle of Covid crisis,” the party said in a statement.

“We appeal to the Defense Ministry to stop issuing such notices to people in the middle of a pandemic situation.”

When contacted over the issue, Lieutenant Colonel Emron Musavi, PRO (Defence) Srinagar told this reporter that he would soon produce the army version.

As and when he comes-up with the statement, this story will be updated.

In Anguish

At Indira Nagar, Manzoor Wani and others are conveying a sense of anguish due to these notices in the middle of the unsettling rumours in Kashmir.

Before August 5, 2019, he said, a number of local delegations met the concerned army officials and apprised them about the situation.

“We told them that we don’t have any basic facilities and aren’t in a position to give property tax to anybody,” Wani said.

“We also told them when it is not implemented in other parts of Kashmir why only our area. However, there was no positive response.”

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Auqib Javeed

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

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