Urban land and immovable property in Jammu and Kashmir can now be purchased by residents of any state, with the Centre notifying a new law to integrate the Union territory with the rest of the country. Earlier, only residents of Jammu and Kashmir were allowed to purchase land in the state. But the Centre's move in August last year, scrapping the state's special powers under the Article 370 of the Constitution and its bifurcation into two Union Territories, paved the way for the change.
In a gazette notification, the Centre has omitted the phrase "permanent resident of the state" from Section 17 of the Jammu and Kashmir Development Act, which deals with the disposal of land in the Union Territory.
Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha clarified that the new law does not apply to 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," said the Lieutenant-Governor.
"The industrial areas that we have defined -- we want that like the rest of the country, industries too come here so that Jammu and Kashmir also develops and employment is generated," he said at a press Conference.
The move, however, set off a stream of protests from the local political parties.
"Unacceptable amendments to the land ownership laws of JK. Even the tokenism of domicile has been done away with when purchasing non agricultural land and transfer of agricultural land has been made easier. JK is now up for sale and poorer small land holding owners will suffer," former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tweeted.
Unacceptable amendments to the land ownership laws of J&K. Even the tokenism of domicile has been done away with when purchasing non-agricultural land & transfer of agricultural land has been made easier. J&K is now up for sale & the poorer small land holding owners will suffer.— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) October 27, 2020
Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti tweeted:
Yet another step thats part of GOI's nefarious designs to disempower & disenfranchise people of J&K. From the unconstitutional scrapping of Article 370 to facilitating loot of our natural resources & finally putting land in J&K up for sale.— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) October 27, 2020
"After failing on all fronts to provide roti & rozgar to people, BJP is creating such laws to whet the appetite of a gullible electorate. Such brazen measures reinforces the need of people of all three provinces of J&K to fight unitedly," another tweet from her read.
Left leader Sitaram Yechury tweeted: "This is highway robbery. The loot of J&K's resources & beautiful landscape. Having destroyed all people's democratic structures, will the next step be forcible land acquisition to hand over to cronies & fatten the purses of the ruling party at centre? This cannot be allowed."
A senior bureaucrat in the home ministry said with this move, the Centre has brought uniformity in land laws throughout India.
With the new notification, three central laws will come into effect in Jammu and Kashmir. Twelve state laws have been repealed and 14 amended or substituted.