An ongoing eviction of locals from land that the Jammu and Kashmir administration describes as “State land” has caused furore across the Union Territory (U.T.) on Monday, with hundreds of activists of several political parties hitting the streets against the move.
The demonstrations were triggered by the administration’s recent directive to Deputy Commissioners to constitute teams of revenue officers for removal of encroachments on a regular basis, and record data on evictions each day, from State lands including Roshni and Kahcharai, before the January 31, 2023 deadline.
Members of the National Conference (NC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Democratic Azad Party (DAP) and the Congress held separate street demonstrations in Jammu on Monday.
“The BJP-led government at the Centre through its proxy administration has fiddled with all the laws of the erstwhile State of J&K, especially land laws. These land laws will allow people from outside J&K and deprive the residents of their due right to use the land,” PDP leader Choudhary Parvez Waffa, who spearheaded a demonstration in Jammu, said.
Ajaz Jan, NC’s youth provincial president, urged the Lieutenant Governor’s administration “to stop harassing the general public in the garb of anti-encroachment drives”.
“The government order to get all the encroachments on State land removed by January 31, 2023 is draconian. A worst phase of misrule is being witnessed by J&K. It has plunged this sensitive region into unprecedented darkness. The proxy government of BJP is pursuing anti-people policies and arbitrarily issuing orders one after the other to further its anti-people agenda,” Mr. Jan said.
He said the majority of land, described as State land by the administration, is being used by the poor and economically weaker sections of the society. “They are mainly using it for agricultural purposes or at the most for shelter,” Mr. Jan added.
Congress leader Shahnawaz Choudhary, who led a street protest of hundreds of party activists in Jammu, accused the L-G administration of “working against downtrodden and marginalised people’‘. “We demand roll back of this unjust land notification. The BJP-controlled administration is planning an escape route for big sharks involved in land mafia business by uprooting poor and landless people,” Choudhary said.
CPI(M) leader M.Y. Tarigami also voiced his “deep concern over the government’s move of divesting the people of the land registered under various titles in revenue records”.
“The government has mobilised all its machinery to dispossess the poor of the land registered as kahchairi, shamilat and so on. After the BJP-led dispensation ended the special constitutional status of J&K, the government introduced a new set of land laws to prod outsiders into investing in the region, which had kicked up fears among the people about losing their land to the non-locals. And now their fears are coming true,” Mr. Tarigami said.
The CPI(M) appealed to all “to unitedly raise the voice against such disastrous moves of the administration”.
Ghulam Nabi Azad-led DAP also held a protest against the eviction drive. “The land under the Roshni Act was allotted to people through the legislature of erstwhile J&K State. It is unfortunate now those who benefited from the scheme are forced to vacate the land, despite the matter being sub-judice before the High Court and the Supreme Court,” DAP leader R.S. Chib said.
A total of 6,04,602 kanals (75,575 acres) of State land, including 5,71,210 kanals (71,401 acres) in Jammu and 33,392 kanals (4174 acres) in the Kashmir province, was regularised and transferred to the occupants under the Act. This included 5,71,210 kanals (71,401 acres) in Jammu and 33,392 kanals (4174 acres) in the Kashmir province. Similarly, kahchairi is community land used traditionally for grazing of animals.