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Kashmir shuts down to protest new land laws, govt allots 1200 hectares for ‘investment’

Ishfaq-ul-Hassan | India Tomorrow

SRINAGAR—On the day Kashmir observed shutdown against the new land laws, the Union Territory administration transferred 24,000 kanals or 1200 hectares (20 Kanals form one hectare) of land to the Industries and Commerce Department for ‘investment purposes’.

The government has fixed a target of 48,000 kanals of land for investments in Jammu and Kashmir. Of which 24,000 kanals had been transferred so far to the Industries Department

The report of the land transfer comes on the day when Kashmir observed shutdown against the land laws notified by the Central government on October 27.

Shops and business establishments remained shut and public transport was off the roads. Skeletal transport, however, was plying on the roads. Major parts of the Srinagar city wore a deserted look as people downed their shutters and stayed at home. Separatist stronghold of the old city observed complete shutdown.

Reports reaching from the militant stronghold of South Kashmir said life was thrown out of gear as people observed a complete shutdown against the land laws. Likewise, Baramulla and other parts also observed the shutdown.

The shutdown call was given by the Mirwaiz Umar Farooq-led Hurriyat Conference. This was for the first time since the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5 last year that Hurriyat Conference gave a call for shutdown. Mirwaiz Umar Farooq continues to remain under house arrest since August 5 last year.

Kashmiris consider the news land laws, allowing people from outside Kashmir to buy land as a strategy of the Central government to change the demography of the Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir. Jammu and Kashmir, including Ladakh and Kargil region, are the only Muslim-majority region in India. Indians from outside Jammu and Kashmir were not allowed to buy property in this border state until August 2019. But the BJP government at the Centre led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi scrapped the special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, struck down its special constitution and split the state into two union territories-Ladakh and Jammu-Kashmir- and removed restriction on outsiders from acquiring property in the state. The Central government also removed restrictions on recruitment of ‘outsiders’ in state government jobs, resulting into protest by the locals. Locals say that new land laws will reduce Jammu and Kashmir into a colony of the Central government. They say that ‘outsiders’ can’t buy land even in the neighbouring Himachal Pradesh. They are angry as to why the ‘outsiders ’are being allowed by the Central government to acquire land and properties in Jammu and Kashmir.

 “The government of India is snatching the rights of Jammu and Kashmir people in order to settle ‘outsiders’ here. People of J&K are not some dumb driven cattle who will yield to these imperial laws. People have proved by the strength of their unfailing will and their immense sacrifices, that they are not a dead but alive and determined nation who will not withstand such assaults upon them and their motherland,” said Hurriyat in a statement.

Under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order, 2020, anyone can buy land as words such as domicile or PRC holders don’t find mention.   Under new rules, an army officer of the rank of Corps Commander can recommend the land for strategic use. This means any piece of land, even those owned by individuals, can be acquired, with no relief from any court.

This order repeals 12 state laws and amends 14 others. The new laws allow any citizen of India to buy land in Jammu and Kashmir. The laws lift the restriction on large landholdings and defeat the purpose of land-to-tiller reforms of 1950.

 “J&K has been put up for sale. They want to alter the character of this place. Basic protections that are available to similar states like Himachal Pradesh have not been given to us. The industrial growth argument is a big bogey. In Jammu, there were big industries before this. The problem for the industry is not Article 370 but militancy. The BJP and the RSS do not want a Muslim majority state in this country. This is their agenda of Akhand Bharat,” Omar told a television channel.

Meanwhile, the topper of this year’s entrance test programme for MA in Islamic Studies course at Central University of Kashmir is a non-Muslim

Shubham Yadav has scored 73.25 points and is way ahead of the second-best candidate who has scored 51.50 points.

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