The centre and the J&K administration held a real estate summit in Jammu (the first of its kind) to encourage people from across the country to buy land, or a second home, in Jammu and Kashmir.
Outsiders - those not classified as 'permanent residents' - had earlier been barred from purchasing or owning land but this was changed after the centre scrapped Article 370 in August 2019, thereby removing special status for J&K.
Local protesters and regional political parties have accused the centre of "putting J&K up for sale".
Organised jointly by the Union Ministry for Housing and Urban Affairs and the J&K administration, the Jammu and Kashmir Real Estate Summit (2021) was held today. Officials said 39 MoUs, or Memorandum of Understandings, were signed; 19 dealt with construction of residential homes.
Calling it a "historical transformation in J&K", the government said it had changed laws to allow external investment in J&K - including the purchase of non-agricultural land.
Lt Governor Sinha has said a similar event will be held in Srinagar in May next year.
"Under the new J&K Development Act, the term 'being a permanent resident of the State' as a criteria has been omitted, paving the way for investors outside J&K to invest," the agenda for today's conference said.
"As a result, any citizen of India can buy non-agriculture land in J&K," it said.
Last week the J&K administration, headed by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, changed land use laws and allowed re-classifying agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes. The decision triggered strong criticism from regional parties, who said the land would be used to settle non-locals.
Recently the centre told Parliament that only seven plots of land had been purchased in J&K following the scrapping of special status. Allowing people from outside J&K to buy land in the UT was one of the major talking points for the BJP and the centre, but so far that doesn't seem to be the case.
Opposition parties have urged the government to focus on job creation rather than investment, given J&K is facing a massive unemployment crisis.
According to a recent Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) unemployment survey, J&K's unemployment rate is over 21 per cent. The all-India average is 7.8 per cent.
Meanwhile, just a few kilometres down the road there were protests against the summit and demands for the restoration of constitutional safeguards and statehood.
"This will not be acceptable to my party or the people of J&K. Having said that, the moot point is (to ask) what necessitated the government to omit the domicile requirement..." Altaf Bukhari, President, Apni Party, said.
"J&K is being put up for sale. They are trying to change our demography, history, identity and culture. We don't accept any such development which changes the character of J&K. They are auctioning J&K," Sunil Dimple, President of Mission Statehood J&K, said.
Recently, the J&K administration was forced to suspend its decision to privatise the power sector, including transmission, after 20,000 employees - who alleged government resources were being systematically sold off - went on strike. The Army had to be called in to operate grid stations.