Using the ruse of the recovery of Government land as a weapon to disempower

 Demolition Buldozer Kashmir

Right since the abrogation of article 370 on Aug.5th, 2019 which was ostensibly read down to herald a new beginning in the state of J&K that was tom-tommed as to usher in the much- needed peace, stability and economic wellbeing of the people of the erstwhile state, all that has remained elusive and nothing that would even remotely reek of such conditions having been brough about, especially in the valley has not been visible on the ground. A slew of initiatives having been put into place to that end since that great betrayal have been no more than an eyewash, a stratagem to hoodwink the people into buying a false narrative, or else the effects of such initiatives would have achieved the desired results long since. In what follows, it’s intended to draw attention to a spate of recent initiatives by the UT administration being advertised as the harbinger of peace and prosperity, but in effect have been contemplated as part of an agenda that seeks to disempower and deracinate the people of Kashmir.

At the outset, let it be made clear that my heart doesn’t beat for most of those, including the rich, the high and the mighty whose property has been demolished during the on-going drive launched by the local administration in Kashmir to retrieve the land being described as the govt. land which is allegedly under the illegal occupation of its owner. However, like most of my Kashmiri compatriots, I’m ill at ease to make sense of the ongoing demolition drive in view of the following reasons, which some may see as me ending up playing the devil’s advocate.

(1) The ownership of land allotted to the beneficiaries under the so-called Roshni Act of Jammu and Kashmir which was duly legislated in the J&K Assembly, and so cannot be rendered null and void, ceases to be ultra vires of the provisions of the Act and of the law of the land. However, what warrants to be done in the matter is to ensure if indeed the land has been allotted to those who deserve to be the rightful beneficiaries of the govt. largesse as stipulated under the provisions of the said Act. I concede though there are many instances where the politicians, the bureaucrats and the well-heeled business houses were favoured with such gratifications.

(2) The selective nature of the demolition drive which has not been implemented in other parts of India, even as there are reports of at least 35% of the government land in the state of Gujarat alone which is under the illegal occupation of its owners. And most importantly,

(3) How does one make sense of tens of thousands of acres of land in Kashmir which has been under the occupation of the army and the paramilitary forces since decades, but obviously without the proper ownership rights. As opposed to this, many common Kashmiris are being evicted in spite of such documents in their possession, even as there are cases where lease-land which, under the law of the land, shall remain under their rightful possession until the validity of the lease-period, is being “recovered” by bulldozing the property worth hundreds of crores that stands raised on such land. The latest case involving the heritage property housing the 190-year old Nedu’s Hotel along the Maulana Azad Road which happens to be among the famous landmarks of the Srinagar city has also been razed to the ground, though partly, but without prior notices having been served to the “erring” parties.

In essence, what we are witnessing is merely one of the many ploys by those who have perched themselves in a position so as to be in charge of the destiny of the inhabitants of this place to further immiserate the people of Kashmir which is now visible in the shape of a mad, massive demolition drive aimed at the disempowerment and impoverishment of the people of the valley that we have been helplessly witnessing especially since Aug 2019. Had it not been so, there would have been evidence on the ground to suggest that the many initiatives having been taken by the government since then would have achieved the desired results in terms of empowerment of the people of Kashmir, whether in economic or political terms or in many other ways. On the contrary, the subtle ways in which the mainstay of valley’s economy in the shape of its natural resources including especially its agriculture or the horticulture sector has been hit hard in terms of the abjectly low prices that the produce is being made to fetch in the Indian market, provides enough grounds for scepticism which reflects in what many would see as a cynical assessment of things. And if indeed those who are shouting from the rooftops that they are doing all this in the interests and for the good of the people of Kashmir, would do well to begin by doing such simple things as restoring to the people of Kashmir their rightful share that they so richly deserve in terms of electricity which is produced by exploiting the natural resources and exported to other parts of India while leaving the valley high and dry with a measly share of 13% of a total of 3263 MW of electricity generated here. It’s besides the point that Kashmir has the potential to produce as much as a whopping 20,000/- MW hydroelectric power, but even a reasonable amount of share of the currently produced power in Kashmir would go a long way in alleviating the endless sufferings of people here, especially during the harsh winter season, apart from it being a driving force to fuel the economy of the state which lies in tatters right now. If that is not crass hypocrisy, what is!

The following may provide yet one more instance of how certain initiatives are implemented to immiserate the people of this region in other ways.

A recent notification issued by the department of higher education of J&K stipulates, among other things, that now onwards the appointment of assistant professors in our universities in J&K would be governed and conducted by the state public service commission, and not by the UGC that continues to remain an obligatory requirement to follow in the selection process involving the appointment of assistant professors in the universities. Would the policy Pandits care to justify this action that is patently in gross violation of the UGC Act. And what, for God’s sake, is sought to be achieved by resorting to this outlandish legislation that would have in it to be seen as a radical improvement upon what is enshrined in the UGC Act and its guidelines?

Prof M A Sofi, Srinagar, Kashmir email: [email protected]

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