In J&K, land is no longer an axe for politicians to grind

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Land Grabbers Are Facing The Heat, People Hail Just Action of UT Administration

Shah Zain

Land is an emotive issue in Jammu and Kashmir. People have been misled and exploited by successive governments in the name of land rights. Regional politicians have historically manipulated peoples’ sentiments associated with land to their political and communal advantages. Article 370 of the Indian constitution was always used as an alibi by the Kashmir politicians to hoodwink people in the name of land.

The scenario seems to have gone for a total change. Post August 5, 2019, when Central government brought the constitutional changes in J&K, land and the rights over land is no longer a political axe for politicians to grind.

Changes Over Last Three Years

In past over three years, host of changes were brought to fore by the central government to the advantage of anybody intending to own land in Jammu and Kashmir. In 2020, the Jammu and Kashmir State Land (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act, 2001, also known as the Roshni Act, was declared null and void by the J&K government with a declaration that land from illegal grabbers will be retrieved back.

In October 2020, the Centre notified the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order, enabling a many new changes to the former state.

Under the new arrangements, no domicile or permanent resident certificate is required to purchase non-agricultural land in the UT. The Union home ministry has also notified the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016, paving way for the acquisition of land in J&K by all Indian citizens. Previously, Article 35-A of the Constitution, watered down on August 5, 2019, placed prohibitions on the sale of land to those who were not state subjects.

The latest order also empowers the government to declare any area in J&K as ‘strategic’, intended for the direct operational and training requirement of the armed forces at the behest of an army officer of or above the rank of a corps commander.

Illegal Land Grabbers facing the heat

Screws are being tightened on illegal land grabbers in J&K by UT administration. Often news of scams being unearthed by the present dispensation gets flashed. The big sharks who had the blessing and support of previous governments to illegally grab J&K state land are being identified and penalised.

The recent disclosure of list of beneficiaries who have allegedly taken advantage of the Roshni Act of Jammu & Kashmir has brought another scam into national limelight.

The Roshni land scam was thrust into spotlight after a judgment was delivered by the Jammu & Kashmir High Court on October 9, 2020 ordering a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). The judgment came nine years after the first petition in this regard was filed before the High Court in 2011 and multiple orders by High Court in this regard went unheeded by government authorities. The CBI too has registered multiple cases following the Jammu and Kashmir High Court’s directive to investigate the scam.

Roshni Act – A Huge Scam

Roshni is a big scam in J&K. Allegedly Hundreds of acres of valuable forest/government land was usurped by influential politicians, businessmen, bureaucrats and judicial functionaries across the erstwhile state. The Roshni Act was passed with the objective of collecting over ₹25,000 crore as regularisation fee from illegal occupants by giving them ownership rights. However, only ₹76 crore was realised between 2007 and 2013.

Stringent Laws Needed Against Land Grabbers

The hardliner approach towards the kand grabbers by the UT administration is appreciable and is also the need of the hour. Stringent laws such as PSA must be slapped against land grabbers. Land grabbers have not only taken benefit under Roshni Act. Some of them have also been running land mafias for decades by deceiving gullible people.

Action Against Ms Shoki Hailed

Only a couple of days ago, Budgam police acted tough against habitual offenders, trespassers and land grabbers. The police booked a notorious fraudster/land grabber under PSA.

According to media reports, Ms Shoki, resident of Gangbugh, Srinagar was a notorious fraudster. She was booked under Public Safety Act for her unrelenting involvement in criminal/anti-social activities and deceiving/looting the gullible people. Media reports say that the woman had been continuously deceiving, befooling and looting gullible people with her craftiness, and with the help of some politicians who were influential ministers in previous governments.

Media reports stated that on the behest of influential politicians, Ms Shoki was found to be involved in forcible trespasses on the pretext of land deals. She grabbed land of many through deceitful means. Media reports stated that the woman also used to attack the owners of property with the help of her goons. She allegedly used to threaten common masses of her area with dire consequences if they dared to confront her.

Shoki is wife of a land broker named Ghulam Rasool Dar @ Las Shikari. Media reports said that they both were acting in hand in glove and sold the land/property on fake revenue documents. She was reportedly also found to be interfering in matters relating to sale/purchase of land in her vicinity.

Difficult To Usurp State Land Now

The winds of change blowing in new Kashmir are a precursor to changing times ahead which will be characterised by justice, legality and rule of law. Common people will have same rights on the resources of the state as those belonging to the influential sections. No politician, bureaucrat, judge or any police officer will be allowed to usurp state land, because the administration under the able leadership of Lieutenant Governor Shri Manoj Sinha has sent a clear message across the table: no one will be spared for illegal occupying state or private land, no means how influential the grabber is. The recent tough actions in this regard are there for anyone to see.

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