Land Grab, Disempowerment

What is affected
Type of violation Forced eviction
Date 11 August 2019
Region A [ Asia ]
Country Kashmir
Location across Indian-occupied Kashmir

Affected persons

Total 0
Men 0
Women 0
Children 0
Proposed solution

Forced eviction

Duty holder(s) /responsible party(ies)

Indian occupation administration
Brief narrative

Since the majority of the landlords were Hindu, after the Partition of India in 1947, the land reforms of 1950 led to a mass exodus of Hindus. The unsettled nature of Kashmir’s status under dual occupation of Pakistan and India, coupled with the threat of economic and social decline in the face of the land reforms, led to increasing insecurity among the Hindus in Jammu, and among Kashmiri Pandits, 20 per cent of whom had emigrated from the Valley by 1950. Chitralekha Zutshi, Languages of Belonging: Islam, Regional Identity, and the Making of Kashmir (London: C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2003), p. 318. Kashmiri Pandits left in much greater numbers in the 1990s, when, according to several scholars, approximately 100,000 of the total Kashmiri Pandit population of 140,000 moved away. Barbara Metcalf and Thomas R. Metcalf, A Concise History of Modern India (Cambridge Concise Histories) (Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), p. 276. Other scholars have suggested a higher figure for the exodus, including the entire population of over 150,000, and 190,000 of a total population of 200,000. T. N. Madan, “Kashmir, Kashmiris, Kashmiriyat: An Introductory Essay,” in Aparna Rao, ed., The Valley of Kashmir: The Making and Unmaking of a Composite Culture? (New Delhi: Manohar Publisher, 2008), p. 25.

More recently, the occupation is Kashmir, whose land and people have remained under the multiple alien administrations of Pakistan, India and China for seven decades local disempowerment, multilateral militarization and land grabbing have characterized Jammu & Kashmir during the pandemic, which crisis has followed India’s rescinding of the autonomy of the territory under its administration/occupation in 2019.The internet blackout and other restrictions on reporting from Indian-occupied Kashmir has allowed only a partial record to emerge. However, the VDB has recorded four major cases of dispossession and destruction of civilian houses during the pandemic, including those households caught in the crossfire of the Indian army and resistance fighters. The resulting 415 identifiable victims of housing and land rights violations in these cases are considered to tell only a fraction of the story, as the country comes under a new wave of demographic manipulation and population transfer, variously evoking contemporary analogies with Palestine and epitomizing the interplay of the epidemic and conflict. “Occupied Kashmir: ‘India learned from Israel’,” HLRN News/Dawn (5 August 2020),

Land Grab, Political Disempowerment Are Twin Pillars of J&K Changes

This is sought through repressive clampdown, cloaked in rhetoric of ‘development’.

Buried deep within the new law that divided Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, lie provisions that reveal the real intent of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government. These changes, affecting political power on the one hand, and land rights on the other, are being perceived by people in all regions of J&K as a mortal blow and a gross act of deliberate humiliation. It is this that is causing simmering anger in region, which is likely to burst out as the initial shock wears away and the clampdown eases. What are these changes?

Land Related Amendments

Section 95 of the new J&K Reorganisation Act lays out what will happen to state laws and application of Central laws. The Fifth Schedule of the Act has the details: 106 Central laws will get extended to the two new Union Territories. Out of the total 330 State laws and Governor’s Acts, 164 will continue to operate, 166 will be repealed and – seven will be amended.

Of these seven, one relates to reservation for economically weaker sections and six relate to land titles and transfer. Have a look at the land related laws that stand amended in the Table below. All of them have one clear objective – to do away with exclusive ownership rights by Permanent Residents (as defined by the J&K Constitution) which were earlier known as State Subjects (since 1927) before J&K merged with India. Amending these laws forms a core concern of the RSS/BJP that has been given a pseudo-nationalist colour by portraying the provisions as anti-national.

that for transfer of land to a non-State Subject (as in Section 20A of Big Landed Estates Abolition Act) or leasing out by the state government (as in Land Grants Act) limits on the area of such land were in place.

Why did the Narendra Modi government need to amend these laws even though the abrogation of Article 370 had led to the end of Article 35A which gave the power of defining Permanent Residents to the State Legislature for the purpose of assuring land titles, government jobs, etc. to them? Because otherwise, these state laws would have continued to exist and effectively blocked alienation of land from J&K residents.

Land Reforms under Threat

It should be remembered that the laws relating to State Subjects and their exclusive rights originated during the rule of the Dogra monarchy and had been brought in to prevent takeover by Punjabis and other settlers at that time. However, J&K state under Sheikh Abdullah’s stewardship since 1947, brought in sweeping land reforms that were contained in many of these laws that are now amended, as well as others. These reforms broke the back of the brutal feudal exploitation exercised by the big landholders, most of whom were Kashmiri Pandits and Dogras.

The Big Landed Estate Abolition Act of 1950 had laid down that nobody could own more than 22.75 acres, not including orchards and fodder resources. By the late 1950s, in all 9,000 landowners were expropriated of their surplus land, amounting to about 450,000 acres, out of which ownership rights of around 230,000 acres were transferred to the tillers. The big difference from zamindari abolition laws elsewhere in India was that no compensation was paid to the landlords. Also, while litigation embroiled zamindari abolition in other parts of the country, due to special status of J&K this law could not be challenged.

In effect, the Permanent (state) Resident rights dovetailed with this massive land reforms because they discouraged bigger players from outside to take over land from the landlords. Many provisions, as mentioned earlier, prohibited transfer of land to persons belonging to non-agricultural classes. Absentee landlords – and J&K had many – were also knocked out.

So, what has been done now is that a wedge has been driven into the fortress of redistributed land in J&K. Corporate players can – theoretically at least – now buy up land from peasants, or from the government which has in its control vast land resources. This will not only shake the foundation of the state’s economy, but is giving rise to very genuine anger amongst common J&K people (both Hindus and Muslims, in both Jammu and Kashmir) that their one source of livelihood is now up for grabs.

Political Disempowerment

Hand in hand with this key change in land laws, goes the other aspect – of political disenfranchisement that comes with J&K’s demotion to Union territory status from a full-fledged state. Although the Act promises that the Union Territory of J&K will have a Legislative Assembly, but this will have its powers considerably restricted. The Assembly will not have control of two subjects that are in the State List of the Constitution – Public Order and Police. So, security will be directly controlled by the central government. The Territory will have as its supremo, a Lt. Governor, appointed by the central government. He or she will have over-riding powers over the Legislative Assembly. Also, fresh delimitation of Assembly seats has been built into the Act and there are fears that demographic gerrymandering will take place to ensure that the communal divide fostered by BJP (especially in recent years) will denigrate the position of the Muslim community in the state.

All this put together means that whenever elections are held and a new dispensation put in place, the political power of the residents of Kashmir will be vastly reduced. As far as Ladakh is concerned, its people have been completely disenfranchised because they don’t even have elected representative now.

With the current clampdown likely to continue and with protests against the changes likely to grow in the coming weeks, the possibility of elections is dim. In any case, delimitation itself will consume a few months at least.

Meanwhile, the land grab can begin.

Original article

Photo on front page: Agricultural land in Kashmir. Source: JammuViraasat. Image on this page: Table of Indian amendments to legislation enabling land grabs in Kashmir.

Related articles:

Legalizing Dispossession: A Tale of Two Indian Land Grabs

Kashmir: Security Forces Burn, Loot Homes

Kashmir: Broken Supply Chains

Kashmir: Indian Residency Law Triggers Fury

COVID-19: We Need a Human Rights Habitat

Kashmir: India to Reclaim Encroached Land

UN: A Call to Human Rights “Action”

Kashmir: A Land without Internet

Fact-finding in Occupied Kashmir

Nagaland Raises National Flag

Kashmir: Land Dispute behind Girl’s Rape, Murder

Kashmir: 13,360 Hectares Forest Land Occupied

Kashmir Land Dispute

South Asia Tremor Must Reinforce Our Resolve

Violation Database entries:


Security Forces Loot, Burn

Beighpora Families

Displaced after 4-year Ceasefire

Costs €   0