By Nusrat Sidiq
SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) – A group of mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday rejected India's controversial legal changes allowing outsiders to buy non-agricultural land in the disputed region.
The seven-party alliance, jointly called People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), dubbed the Oct. 26 order of the Indian Interior Ministry allowing Indian nationals who are not residents of Jammu and Kashmir to buy non-agricultural land in the region as bizarre attempt to distort facts, weave lies and mislead people.
The statement said that the real object of the repeal of the basic land laws and the massive amendments to the other laws is to push in and implement the agenda of effecting "demographic change and disempowering" the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
"The laws now introduced through amendments by Indian Government are not only against people of Jammu and Kashmir but undemocratic, unconstitutional and backward looking with only aim to disempower people and change the demography," it read.
Until Aug. 5 last year, when India stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its autonomous status and divided it into two centrally ruled territories, outsiders could not buy property or apply for government jobs. Since then, the Indian government introduced laws that made it easier for outsiders to become residents of the region and eligible for government jobs.
– Pro-people act undone
The political alliance also called the earlier land laws of Jammu and Kashmir region the most progressive, pro-people and pro-farmer in the entire Indian subcontinent.
The statement said that the Jammu and Kashmir region was the first in the country to implement the concept of land to tiller by enacting Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, 1952, followed by Agrarian Reforms Act, 1976, restricting the land holding to twelve and half acres and ending the exploitative practice of absentee landlordism, and whosoever calls it archaic, would be guilty of ignorance of the history of Jammu and Kashmir.
"It is because of the timely land reforms that no starvation deaths occur in Jammu and Kashmir, no farmer suicides have been ever reported from Jammu and Kashmir and everyone in Jammu and Kashmir has available three fundamental necessities food, clothing and shelter, the position that is now sought to be reversed by making massive assault on the land law regime," the statement added.
Earlier many political leaders had come out openly against the amendments to the land ownership laws, calling it repressive measures used against the residents of the region.
"Unacceptable amendments to the land ownership laws of J&K. Even the tokenism of domicile has been done away with when purchasing non-agricultural land & transfer of agricultural land has been made easier. J&K is now up for sale & the poorer small land holding owners will suffer," Omar Abdullah, former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, had said.
– Disputed region
Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.
Since they were partitioned in 1947, New Delhi and Islamabad have fought three wars — in 1948, 1965, and 1971 — two of them over Kashmir. Also, in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire took effect in 2003.
Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against the Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.
According to several human rights organizations, thousands have reportedly been killed in the conflict since 1989.