‘Our Land Up for Grabs’: Sharp Reactions As Govt Declares Land in Gulmarg, Sonmarg As ‘Strategic Areas’
“In 2018 state government informed the state legislative assembly that more than 21,400 hectares (428000 Kanals) of land was under the unauthorised occupation of the army and other government forces in J&K.”
SRINAGAR — Government’s order of designating over 1300 Kanals of land at two famous tourist resorts of Kashmir—Gulmarg and Sonmarg—as ‘Strategic Areas’ has drawn severe criticism and resentment from across the valley.
The land being designated includes 1034 Kanals at the famous tourist place of Gulmarg and 354 Kanals in Sonmarg.
Several stakeholders and politicians from the valley reacted to the move of the government and condemned it demanding a review of the decision.
Section 3 of the J&K Developmental Act “Strategic Areas” states that the Government may declare an area as a “Strategic Area” within a local area, only for direct operational and training requirements of armed forces, which may be excluded from the operation of this Act and rules/regulations.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and PDP President Mehbooba Mufti tweeted: “Allocating thousands of Kanals to armed forces that are in tourist areas confirms GOIs intention to convert J&K into a military garrison. Under the ‘state land’ pretext, our land is up for grabs & to add insult to injury locals are being evicted from their homes.”
Support Our Journalism
You are reading this because you value quality and serious journalism.
But, serious journalism needs serious support. We need readers like you to support us and pay for making quality and independent journalism more vibrant.
In 2018, Mehbooba Mufti, then chief minister, had informed the state legislative assembly that more than 21,400 hectares (428000 Kanals) of land was under the unauthorised occupation of the army and other government forces in J&K.
According to Dr Muzaffar, an RTI activist, Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi, India’s Home Minister Amit Shah, and other BJP leaders have many times claimed that the extension of central laws to Jammu & Kashmir would confer upon its people benefits under the flagship programs extended to the rest of the country. “The land they are transferring to Armed forces in Gulmarg, Sonamarg and Pahalgam, will be disastrous for the people of Kashmir in the future. They are taking advantage of the amendments in the law and giving land to the Armed Forces and I’m sure this will continue further; they won’t be stopping anytime soon. Our forests will shrink further. There will be an environmental disaster in the future”.
After the abrogation of the erstwhile state’s special status, the government of India revoked and amended various laws of J&K. These amendments in various Acts have made the tourism Department and various other concerned departments lose authority on the land and the Army will now decide on approval and construction of projects in different areas.
Amendments in the Jammu and Kashmir Development Act 1970 resulted in many changes. In Section 1 of sub section (2), the State of Jammu and Kashmir was replaced by the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. In Section 2 of clause (a), being apermanent resident of the State was completely omitted without specifying any substitute such as domicile, or any other clause to regulate land ownership — thereby allowing the purchase of land by any individual.
J&K Land Acquisition Act, which was repealed following the abrogation of Article 370. Land Acquisition Act, 1990 was substituted with, the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (Fair Compensation Act) 2013 was made operational in Jammu & Kashmir from October 31, 2019, but the government continues to acquire land and property by invoking the obsolete State Land Acquisition Act, 1990 (1934 A.D.)
The provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Agrarian Reforms Act, 1976, Jammu and Kashmir Land Revenue Act, Samvat 1996 or any other law for the time required to change the usage of any land, shall not be applicable to any land covered.
Two of the laws that have been repealed — The Jammu and Kashmir Alienation of Land Act, 1938, and The Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, 1950 — provided protections on land holdings for permanent residents or “permanent resident certificate holders” as defined by laws of the erstwhile state of J&K.
In section 22-Z of the Act, whenever any land is required by the Corporation for any purpose in furtherance of the objects of this Act, but is unable to acquire it by agreement, the Government may, upon an application of the Corporation order proceedings to be taken for acquiring the land needed for the Corporation.
“What is the purpose of extending 800 central laws to J&K when people don’t benefit from them?” Dr Muzaffar asked.
More than two years after the abrogation of Article 370, the people of Kashmir are yet to benefit from laws relating to fair compensation, right to education, right to information, forest rights, and many others, he said.
The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration has termed the government’s reassurances on the land laws as a “bizarre attempt to distort facts, weave lies and mislead people”.
PAGD had said that the real objective of repealing the basic land laws and carrying out massive amendments to the other laws was to push through and implement the agenda of effecting demographic change, and disempower the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said that rather than these unnecessary things, the government should focus on other important issues like unemployment and tourism.
“Already there are a lot of areas under the army. Government should focus on tourism and unemployment and I hope that the government will review its decision,” Tarigami said.
In October, New Delhi appointed Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha approved the transfer of 524 Kanal 11 Marla of land in favour of CRPF for establishing battalion camping sites at eight villages of Anantnag, Shopian and Pulwama districts of southern Kashmir, including Pahalgam tehsil.
The Administrative Council, headed by the Governor, also approved the transfer of land measuring 20 Kanal in favour of the Police Department for construction of SDPO Office Police Station Litter in Pulwama district.
The sanction was also accorded to the transfer of 15.25 acres of land at Kupwara, Baramulla and Budgam districts in Kashmir division in favour of the department of disaster management relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction for construction of 1-BHK tenements for Kashmiri migrant employees appointed under the PM’s Development Package.
Become Our Ally
To help us strengthen the tradition of quality reading and writing, we need allies like YOU. Subscribe to us.
Basit Parray is a trainee staff writer at the Mountain Ink. He is a bachelor's student of Journalism & Mass Communication at the Cluster University, Srinagar.