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India eases guidelines for security forces to acquire land in Kashmir

India eases guidelines for security forces to acquire land in Kashmir

The Indian administration of J&K has lifted a requirement set in place by a 1971 circular. The circular required Indian security forces to obtain a special certificate in order to acquire land in the disputed region.

The order allows security forces to acquire land without a “no objection certificate” (NOC) clearance from the region’s home department. The security forces includes “Indian Army, Border Security Forces, paramilitary forces and similar organisations”.

It cites the extension of the 2013 Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act. It was in August last year, J&K was declared a federal territory in a controversial move by the Indian government.

Thus, this order is in the view of the federal law’s extension to the Jammu and Kashmir region. The circular requiring an NOC from the erstwhile state’s home department was withdrawn, according to the order. It was to be obtained prior to the acquisition or requisition of land by the security forces.

 The move came on the heels of the regional administration agreeing to legal changes to allow construction in the region’s “strategic areas” by the Indian armed forces.

Scrapped autonomy

India revoked Article 370 and related constitutional provisions, effectively, on August 5 last year. The partial autonomy that Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir state had, was also scrapped. And it was split  into two federally administered territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Same time, New Delhi imposed a crippling security lockdown, detaining thousands, imposing restrictions on movement and enforcing a communications blackout.

In May this year, India passed a law allowing people from outside Kashmir to become permanent residents of the territory. This sparkled the fears of a demographic change and non-locals getting priority in housing, jobs and education.

“Our distinct social and cultural identity, whether it’s our languages or traditions – everything is in danger,” Haroon Reshi. Reshi is a freelance journalist based in the main city of Srinagar, told Reuters news agency.

Khurram Pervez, a prominent human rights activist, noted that residents of slums in J&K are entitled to affordable housing. The domicile law could make “tens of thousands” of migrant labourers from other states eligible for public housing as well.

Another move of Indian administration on July 24 would generate jobs and boost development in J&K. As the administration approved setting aside 488 hectares (1,205 acres) of state land to build industrial estates in about 35 locations across the region.

According to census in 2011, Muslims comprised 68.31 percent and Hindus 28.43 percent of the 12.5 million people in J&K. Since May 18, more than 25,000 people have been granted domicile certificates. That includes refugees from Pakistan, Gurkha soldiers from Nepal. They had served in the Indian army and marginalised groups such as sanitation workers from the state of Punjab.

Since India and Pakistan were partitioned in 1947,

the two nuclear-armed neighbours have fought three wars. Which was fought in the following years- 1948, 1965, and 1971, where two of them was over Kashmir. The Himalayan region of Kashmir is held by India and Pakistan in part, but claimed by both in full. A small sliver of the region is also controlled by China.

Some Kashmiri groups have been fighting against Indian rule for independence or unification with Pakistan. According to several human rights groups, thousands of people have been killed in the conflict since 1989.

Raja Muzaffar Bhat, chairman of the J&K RTI Movement, an anti-corruption charity, described the decision as “disastrous” in a statement. He stated that the government should instead focus on establishing more agricultural land and creating green jobs.