With the onset of Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir in the years 1989 to 1990, a large number of people had to migrate from their ancestral places of residence, particularly in Kashmir (division). There was mass exodus of Kashmiri Hindus as well Sikhs and Muslims families.
Approximately 60,000 families migrated from the Valley during the turmoil, of which 44,000 migrant families (approx.) are registered with Relief Organisation (M) J&K, whereas, rest of the families chose to shift to other states/UTs. The hapless migrants had to leave behind their Immovable as well as Moveable properties.
Under compelling circumstances, the immovable properties of these migrants got either encroached or they were forced to sell them at throwaway prices.
In order to address this issue, on June 2, 1997 an Act, namely, The Jammu and Kashmir Migrant Immovable Property (Preservation, Protection and Restraint on Distress Sales) Act, 1997, was enacted.
This Act provided preservation, protection and restraint on distress sales of the immovable property of the migrants. Under it, a concerned District Magistrate was designated as a Custodian of the Migrant Properties. It is a legitimate duty of all the concerned District Magistrates to take such steps as may be necessary for the implementation of the Act. The Act provides for certain restrictions to prevent distress sale, custody of immovable property, eviction of unauthorized occupants, implementation by the competent authority, etc.
The implementation of this Act, however, has been, at best, tardy if not replete with instances of non-performance or official apathy. Despite various provisions, numerous instances of distress sale and alienation by different means have been reported.
The cases under J&K Agrarian Reforms Act 1976 were neither properly enumerated nor contested, ex-parte decisions have been taken, and non-migrants have been shown as prospective owner. Even in some cases, tenancy has been created by showing non-existing tenants since 1971 by way of fraud/cheating, which was not permissible under section 13 of the said Act.
It is important to mention here that since 2018-19, to 2020-21(July), the office of RRCM received approximately 113 grievances. Instances have come to notice, particularly when in pursuance of the orders of the Hon’ble High Court in OWP No. 477/2016 dated 06.03.2020 titled “All India Kashmiri Samaj and Ors. V/s Union of India and Ors.” directing diarisation of complaints and monitoring thereof, that immovable properties of migrants have been alienated without following due process.
The first step in the direction to address this abysmal state of affairs has been taken by doing away with the need for written complaint by the aggrieved for the competent authority to enumerate and evict unauthorised occupants. By virtue of S.O. 1229 (E) dated 31.03.2020 (Adaptation of State Laws) Order 2020 the requirement of written complaints for survey or measurement of a migrant property, proviso 2 of sub-section (2) of section 6 has been omitted and the following sub-section has been inserted in section 6:
“The competent authority shall prepare the details of immovable property of migrants in such format, as may be prescribed, and take appropriate action to evict unauthorised occupant of such migrant property including such action as provided in Section 5.”
Taking the process further, in order to redress the grievances of the migrants and restore the properties, a notification has been issued (S.O. 275 dated 13.08.2021) whereby the powers of Commissioner under Agrarian Reforms Act, 1976 have been conferred upon the Deputy Commissioners. The involvement of senior level functionaries, exclusively for the avowed purpose under the ARA 1976, is expected to bring requisite force and focus. Also, instructions under section 10 of J&K Migrant Immovable Property (preservation, Protection and Restraint on Distress Sale) Act, 1997 have been issued for preservation and protection of immovable property of Migrants, vide Government Order No. 53-JK-(Rev) of 2021 dated August 13, 2021, which inter-alia provides that:
1. The Department of Disaster Management Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction will develop an online portal for filing applications by the migrants for correction of records/demarcation and removal of encroachments/trespassing/alienation by way of fraud or distress, etc.
2. The application filed on the portal will be disposed off in a fixed time frame under the Public Services Guarantee Act, 2011 by the revenue authorities under intimation to applicant.
3. The competent authority (District Magistrate) shall undertake survey/field verification of migrant properties and update all registers, within a period of 15 days and submit compliance report to the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir.
4. Any violation of the Act, including in respect of religious properties, shall be taken cognizance by the competent authority (District Magistrate) with timely action for eviction, custody and restoration of such properties and also action under law against the violators.
5. The Revenue Officers shall dispose off cases on priority, with due consideration to the circumstances and specificity, while taking decision with regard to the Limitation period.
During the trial period itself, 745 grievances have been received. This portal (Kashmir Migrants Immovable Properties as well as Community Assets Related Grievance Redressal System) will greatly aid in redressing the grievances in an effective manner, putting an end to the plight of the migrants who have been suffering since 1990.