Asia - Pacific

India allows outsiders to buy land in Kashmir

Interior Ministry announces that anyone can now purchase non-agricultural property in disputed region

Hilal Mir   | 28.10.2020
India allows outsiders to buy land in Kashmir ( Faisal Khan - Anadolu Agency )

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir 

India on Tuesday made controversial legal changes allowing Indian nationals who are not residents of Jammu and Kashmir to purchase non-agricultural land in the disputed region. 

Until Aug. 5 last year, when India stripped Kashmir of its autonomous status and divided it into two centrally ruled territories, outsiders could not buy property or apply for government jobs. Since then, the Indian government introduced laws that made it easier for outsiders to become residents of the region and eligible for government jobs.

However, authorities had not clarified whether these would definitively allow non-native Indian nationals to buy properties.

On Tuesday, the country's Interior Ministry announced that anyone would now be able to purchase non-agricultural land in Jammu and Kashmir, while farmland could only be transferred or sold to agriculturists, or others if authorized by the government.

Under the new laws, the government also ordered the establishment of an industrial development corporation. The notification read that if the firm was not able to acquire land from private owners, the government could invoke provisions of another law to acquire land on its behalf for undefined "public" purposes.

When autonomy was scrapped last year, both local pro-India and pro-freedom politicians expressed fears that it would open the gates to demographic change in Jammu and Kashmir, the country's only Muslim-majority region.  

Disputed region 

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority Himalayan region, is held by India and Pakistan in parts and claimed by both in full. A small sliver of Kashmir is also held by China.

Since they were partitioned in 1947, New Delhi and Islamabad have fought three wars -- in 1948, 1965, and 1971 -- two of them over Kashmir. Also, in Siachen glacier in northern Kashmir, Indian and Pakistani troops have fought intermittently since 1984. A cease-fire took effect in 2003.

Some Kashmiri groups in Jammu and Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule for independence, or for unification with neighboring Pakistan.

According to several human rights organizations, thousands have reportedly been killed in the conflict since 1989.

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