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J&K: Agricultural Land Conversion Regulation Stokes Fears of Demographic Change

Some believe that New Delhi wants to change the demography of Jammu and Kashmir and end its status as a Muslim majority state in the country and that the current move needs to be seen in this context.
J&K: Agricultural Land Conversion Regulation Stokes Fears of Demographic Change

Representational Image. Image Courtesy: Reuters.

Srinagar: The government’s decision to frame regulations that allows the conversion of agricultural land in Jammu and Kashmir for non-agricultural purposes has drawn condemnations, with many believing that these are paving way for fears of demographic change in the region.

The regulations were framed by the Board of Revenue for the conversion and approved by the J&K Administrative Council that met here under the chairmanship of Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha.

“The regulations are necessitated after the legislative changes in the Land Revenue Act post-reorganisation of the erstwhile State. They have been issued to regulate the uncontrolled conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes on the one hand and keep the developmental aspirations of the UT and the people on the other hand,” a spokesman said in an official statement.

The amendments in the law regarding the land conversion in Jammu and Kashmir where a majority of people are directly involved and dependent on agricultural produce and practices are seen by many as a means to pave way for corporate investment and serve the real estate sharks. This comes a year after the authorities in the region had given assurances to protect agricultural land and framed laws around it.

Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has lashed out at the government which she believes stands exposed before people.

“JK admin’s new policy enabling conversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes reveals their nefarious designs of engineering demographic changes. The development agenda is a ruse. Latest regulation doesn’t even require the 15 yr domicile certificate as a prerequisite,” she tweeted.

The situation in Jammu and Kashmir has changed from bad to worse especially after the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A with an increase in fears amongst the locals in the wake of right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruling the region with iron-fist. Many here believe the policies about the economic, political and social development of the region are drafted without consulting the Kashmiris or their representatives hence, ending up with unpopular decisions.

Some have indicated that New Delhi wants to change the demography of Jammu and Kashmir and end its status as a Muslim majority state in the country, a claim which is often refuted.

“The fear of demographic change has never been far from peoples' minds and this change to the land use will only strengthen these fears. Besides the fact that this conversion of land use doesn’t even require the fifteen-year domicile certificate as a prerequisite, will also rekindle fears of demographic change," National Conference spokesperson Imran Nabi Dar said.

"Jammu and Kashmir is fast losing its 'food independence' as its dependence on imports have reached its highest level of about 1 lakh metric tons in 2016-17. This will further add to the already increasing food grain deficit in the region. The move will worsen the food grain deficit and make solutions to the already festering crisis more elusive,” he added while calling for an immediate rollback.

Terming the move as a means to serve corporate interests, CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said the slogan of “development” of the BJP is nothing but a red herring. He said that such proposals will adversely impact food security and will be opposed “tooth and nail.”

“The only intention to abolish the Constitution of J&K and revoked Article 370 and 35A was to change the demography of Jammu and Kashmir. Now with such decisions, everything becomes clearer. It is an eye-opener for those who still have illusions about the BJP government’s intentions towards Jammu and Kashmir,” the former lawmaker said.

Former Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah also termed the use of agricultural land for non-agriculutral purposes as antithetical to the landmark “land to tiller” reforms carried out in the erstwhile state of J&K.

“Allowing use of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes is another nail in the coffin of the “land to the tiller” reforms in J&K. This landmark reform has been a major reason for the low levels of poverty and it will also threaten the food security of the people of J&K,” Omar tweeted.

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