Jammu and Kashmir has suffered a lot in last several decades. It is mostly because of deceptive politics practiced by those who build empires in the former state and left the common man in the lurch. These politicians to remain in power begged before the central government from time to time, did everything they were told but at the same time misled the people of Jammu and Kashmir by making them believe that they were working for their welfare, for their exclusive privileges and all. Truth is that for votes they were showing people a different picture masking all efforts that could have truly emancipated the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The abrogation of special status stripped their luxuries and lavish lifestyle, their king-like rule and the corruption they had brought into the state. It is a tragedy that people continue to be fooled by these power-hungry politicians who want to paint a picture that suits them, as they are desperate to get back their power seats, to rule and accommodate their own kith and kin in every department and government office. The new land law is a recent example how politics than genuine review has been played over the issue.
Reforms become necessary when old laws become obsolete or when they impede development of a place. Land reforms are very much needed in the now Union Territory for many reasons. In Kashmir people have been complaining about green pastures and agriculture land either being converted into commercial jungles or being usurped by politicians. But nobody till now has come forward with a solution. The political parties have been busy accommodating their own people and party workers than work honestly for the people. All issues of development have been sidelined and the achievement of these politicians is a big zero. Traffic worsened, roads were never repaired, there was no vision as where infrastructure needs to be developed, there was no ban on illegal building. In fact all major and minor violations took place under the noses of these politicians. Today, we see a change. We see that ministers are not there for ribbon-cutting ceremonies and wooing the ignorant people. We see that MLA funds are not being spent on party workers and their problems only. On the contrary things are changing for good.
Prohibition of Conversion of Land and Alienation Orchards Act 1975 was a regressive law. It was regressive because any farmer willing to convert his land was prevented in doing so. Let’s throw some light on it. Did conversion happen in the last twenty years or not? Yes it did, but poor farmers had to grease the palms of officials and even ministers to get it done. Now why would a farmer convert his land? Was it being done under pressure from some external agency or was it the choice and will of the farmer? Large land holdings were converted in the last twenty years. No one stopped it, no politicians did anything. But all those crying foul now saw the massive corruption. Ask a common person about revenue department, revenue officials, tehsildars how they have been operating in the past. The conversion of land with the new act has become easy and simplified.
The Agrarian Reforms Act 1976 that has also been quashed was again regressive in nature. It allowed the resumption of land by landlords. The tillers could not sell their land even after 44 years. That is again not entirely true. Those who wanted to sell they had to do it via corrupt mechanism. The new law is anti-Landlord and it should be. Feudalism needs to be completely eradicated, from its roots. The new law doesn’t allow landlords to resume their lands. The tillers have complete ownership now as they are allowed to sell after 15 years of ownership. It all depends on the people. If people don’t want to sell their land no one is going to force them to sell it.
According the new act agricultural land can be sold only to agriculturists. In Jammu and Kashmir wealthy sections would acquire land anywhere, even if it were agricultural land. These lands were transformed into lush farm houses and hotels in some cases. Isn’t it good that agriculture land will be protected from the designs of such people?
The non-agricultural land as per new law can be sold to anyone. Earlier this power rested in the hands of the Revenue Minister. It is because of this reason only and political corruption that large holdings of non-agricultural land has been acquired by people who had contacts and political influence.
People in Kashmir should think about the biggest scam under the political leadership of those who are raising their voice today. The Roshni Act, and the scam it became later, was supposed to recover the state land. What did the politicians do? Land has been grabbed illegally in every nook and corner of the territory, several former ministers have been accused in these land grabbing cases. But people would remain silent and not take them to task. However, when cheap politics is played over any issue, you will find them in front row.
If there are genuine reforms and apprehensions about anything that is being proposed or amended people must step forward and make it known. Allowing some elements to pick up issues and hide behind the hypocrisy is not a good thing. Matters of importance need to be measured on the basis of merits and demerits and not on the basis of noise produced by hypocrites who have given nothing to this place.