In a significant move, the Centre has notified the new Land Laws for Jammu & Kashmir. In a gazette notification, the Union Home Ministry has notified this on Monday (26 October). This makes it possible for any Indian citizen to buy land in the region, sparking fears among locals as it was earlier meant only for permanent residents under Article 370.
The Narendra Modi government's removal of special status of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019 opened the door for outsiders to buy land and property, get government jobs and attend institutes of higher education. The law had empowered the government of the former state to define "permanent residents" of Jammu and Kashmir and reserve certain rights for them.
In its order, the home ministry said the new laws will be called the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order, 2020. It added that it will come into effect immediately.
The Centre said the "permanent resident of the state" clause has been omitted now. Under this, 12 state laws have been repealed and 26 others have been adapted with changes or substitutes, according to ANI. Those completely repealed include the Jammu and Kashmir Alienation of Land Act, 1995, the Jammu and Kashmir Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, the Jammu and Kashmir Common Lands (Regulation) Act, 1956, and the Jammu and Kashmir Consolidation of Holdings Act, 1962.
The notification stated that the government may, on the written request of an Army officer not below the rank of Corp Commander, declare an area "strategic" within a local area. This can only be for the direct operational and training requirements of the Armed forces, which may be excluded from the operation of this Act and rules and regulations made there under in the manner and to the extent.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah criticised the amendments. "Unacceptable amendments to the land ownership laws of Jammu and Kashmir," he tweeted. "Even the tokenism of domicile has been done away with when purchasing non-agricultural land and transfer of agricultural land has been made easier. J&K is now up for sale and the poorer small land holding owners will suffer."
Meanwhile, Jammu & Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has clarified that the new land laws being introduced in the Union Territory will not impact agricultural land.
"I want to say this forcefully and with full responsibility that agricultural land has been kept reserved for farmers; no outsider will come on those lands. The industrial areas that we have defined, we want that like rest of the country, here too industries come so that Jammu & Kashmir also develops and employment is generated," the L-G said.
However, there are several exemptions in the Act which enable the transfer of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, including setting up educational or health care facilities, reports PTI.
However, the government like previous orders, has not extended the adaptation to Ladakh region. A senior government official said the third adaptation of the laws is only meant for Jammu and Kashmir, not Ladakh.