The 26 October notification by New Delhi repealed 12 erstwhile state laws and modified 14 other defining land rights and its usage in Jammu and Kashmir. The latest imposition is another in the series of events set in motion on 5 August 2019. The impositions impact the Kashmir Valley as much as it does those living in the Jammu Division as well as Ladakh. The Kashmir Walla’s Abdul Mukeet spoke to some of them.
Political Activist in Kargil, Ladakh
The people feel very much betrayed and humiliated [in the post 5 August scenario] and they are fed up with the current dispensation [at the Centre].
There is some confusion basically, there is no clarity on whether these land laws are for Ladakh as well. But these new land laws are illegal. The state laws have been illegally abrogated similarly as the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was. We oppose any kind of laws which are introduced in the name of developmental reforms after abrogating our special status. As our case is subjudice in the honourable Supreme Court, in the meantime any law which tinkers the status quo prior to 5 August 2019 is not acceptable to us.
The people are not much aware [about the imposed land laws] but yes, as much as the people know about the land and job security of the region, particularly the land security, they very much have a sense of apprehension. Although it is not clear now what the land laws about Ladakh are going to be, people have deep apprehensions about it.
The future is ambiguous but still we believe the honourable Supreme Court will give its verdict in favour of the people of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and also restore our special status with dignity. There is a need to mitigate the moods of the people of Jammu and Kashmir after 5 August.
Malik Mohammad Umar
Political Activist in Kishtwar
The people have a sense of fear, of the unknown. They are unsure about what’s happening or is going to happen but more than that, people in Kishtwar are still fighting for their basic rights. In the regimes which we have seen previously, there has never been any unprecedented development as claimed by successive states or the central governments. More than anything else people just want development, people want peace, people want progress.
The Chenab Valley and Kishtwar specifically, are very underdeveloped. Peace is a prerequisite to development and we have never seen peace and never seen developmental activities gaining any momentum. So when we see developed states like Maharashtra, we see that in those states because of the influx of people from other places has rendered the locals jobless and they have been pushed to the extent that they are becoming landless now, because these people from outside are taking over the jobs, the industries, lands and it has become so huge that it has become a major election plank. Like the Shiv Sena’s major election plank has been this only, and we should learn from the mistakes that have been committed by the centre in other states.
I want to ask when we already have the North East and states like Uttarakhand, Himachal etc protected by their land laws. So, if those states are given safeguards in terms of land laws and job protection and protection given to natives in terms of influx coming from outside the states so why can’t we be given that?
The apprehensions about increased militarization are issues that are present but we aren’t majorly affected by militancy in Kishtwar. Militancy has mostly gone from Kishtwar, it is coming back again recently and that trend also has its roots in Kashmir division. The roots are there but the repercussions are in Chenab.
The original problem and the major problem that we in Chenab face is sheer-sheer underdevelopment. Our district doesn’t even have a proper hospital, thousands of people die every year because of accidents and we still don’t have anything done about it. Kishtwar is one of the biggest districts and we still don’t have a district hospital. Our sub district operates as a district hospital.
So how will a person comprehend what land laws are when they are fighting for basic items such as these.
Our issues are totally different from the rest of the region and as I said earlier, we are still fighting for our basic rights. Some areas are even without electricity and mobile connectivity. Someone who doesn’t even get food in his belly doesn’t see what article 370 is or isn’t.
But yes true, the imposition of these new land laws have questioned our very existence. For example, people from Bihar and some other areas have already bought land but the only problem with them was that they were never able to register them in their own name. Now they will be absolutely open with that. So for the common person, not only are they deprived of their basic rights now they will be left landless as well.
We have such a high influx of labourers from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, they will be people who will be holding lands now. It is not religion based anymore. Especially initially, as Kashmir won’t feel the brunt of the land law changes with regards to land holdings but areas like Jammu, Kishtwar, Rajouri will bear the brunt. So people are scared, people are terrified.
The future is confusing. Basically New Delhi has no concrete future planning in terms of developmental activities. I still remember when the home minister said at the floor of the house that, “hum vikas ke diwar kholna chahtay hai”, we want too open the doors of progress, in Jammu and Kashmir, but we haven’t seen any of that happen yet. We got nothing.
So, we are still fighting for our basic rights, what’s there to talk about bigger things.
Guftar Ahmed Choudary
Social Activist in Rajouri, Jammu
Since 5 August 2019 everyone is angry here, they are disappointed.
These new land laws have been implemented now, but the 5 August move was behind this. This was the whole motive. Abrogation of the articles was only about giving the provision to other people to own land here, in Jammu and Kashmir. So everyone is aware about this.
Even the average person knows that there was nothing left in Articles 370 and 35A except for the safeguards for jobs and land. When they were scrapped, everyone knew the motive was land grab and to change the demography of this place. But the current scenario is such that anyone who talks against it, or shows any dissent, they book them and lock them up. So if the government allowed people to express their views, the common person is allowed to exercise the freedom of speech and put their views, then even the government knows what is on everyone’s minds. But the uncertainty is such that people fear about expressing their opinions so you can see the silence right now.
Our future and everyone’s future in Kashmir is in danger. We all are destroyed. This is all a well thought out plan which is being meticulously executed. Jammu and Kashmir, the only Muslim majority state is being slowly subjected to a demographic change. Previously having a domicile was a criterion to own land but the new land laws has no mention of domicile holders, anybody can come and buy land now. So, everything is finished in Jammu and Kashmir now.
Deepika Singh Rajawat
Lawyer in Jammu
The mood of the people immediately after the abolition of the articles was that initially they were very happy. This is not my opinion, but the mood of the people. But at the same time, they wanted land rights to be reserved and jobs to be reserved. In a way they wanted that the articles should be abolished, but that outsiders shouldn’t come either, and that our land shouldn’t be sold either, and our jobs and education centers shouldn’t face any competition either. But they have started getting angry with all this when the land law came and that people from outside states can buy land here and get jobs too.
So people didn’t see this coming, they are outraged now. With regards to these land laws people are completely angry. There is even a full-fledged campaign, that Jammu and Kashmir rejects land laws.
People are not okay with that as instead of not just losing their land there are many things which come with it. People here also feel that crime rates might increase just like in states like Uttar Pradesh.
Initially after the abrogation the people might have been happy but now that they have started to understand the repercussions they have started to ask for provisions like the domicile among other things. But see, if you’re demanding something only from the perspective of retrospect, even then it has to be given that people are understanding that they have been deceived and that their basic issues are not addressed and only superficial things are brought in. These controversial laws are brought in so the majority of the people here in Jammu are not happy.
They have also started to realize that our Jammu, which was the city of temples will not be ours anymore and it won’t be the same anymore once the outsiders start coming in and what is our will not be ours anymore. People have realized that they have been deceived and duped so let me tell you very frankly that yes, the anger is here and outrage.
No one even cares about bringing that awareness about these laws, whoever even decides to touch them though, then uses these laws to further any of their agenda and add fuel to the fire. The situation is quite grim.
Though promises were there that by abolishing Article 370 we will work on education, health and curbing on terrorism but one and a half year has passed and there is no change. The situation is becoming bad day by day. We hope for the best but it is the only thing we can do at the current point.
Personally, I still want to see peace prevail everywhere, our children should have proper education, unemployment should be addressed, health care should be worked on, but I don’t see that happening. People need to wake up. Like minded and right-thinking people need to stand up and raise their voices and transpire a change, otherwise we are just going to be used as an experimental lab for the foreseeable future.