The Modi government has 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 in a move fraught with political implications
The Modi government has 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 in a move fraught with political implications. Outsiders - those not classified as "permanent residents" - had earlier been barred from purchasing or owning land but this was changed after the government had scrapped Article 370 and 35A in August 2019, thereby removing the special status for J&K in the Indian Constitution. Local protesters and regional political parties have accused the government of "putting J&K up for sale", NDTV reported.
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 criterion has been omitted, paving the way for investors outside J&K to invest," the agenda for the conference, organized by the Union Ministry for Housing and Urban Affairs and the J&K administration, said.
"As a result, any citizen of India can buy non-agriculture land in J&K," it said.
The Jammu and Kashmir Real Estate Summit (2021) saw 39 MoUs being signed, of which 19 dealt with the construction of residential homes.
Last week the J&K administration 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. Opposition parties have urged the government to focus instead on job creation rather than investment, given J&K is facing a massive unemployment crisis, NDTV said.
According to a recent Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) unemployment survey, J&K's unemployment rate is over 21 per cent, while the all-India average is 7.8 per cent.
Just a few kilometres down the road there were protests against the summit and demands for the restoration of constitutional safeguards and statehood of Jammu & Kashmir.
"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. Kashmiri political parties have also charged the government with attempts to change the demographic character of Jammu & Kashmir.