Thirty years on, the Jammu and Kashmir government has launched a massive anti-encroachment drive to free migrant land from encroachers and interlopers. Taking the lead is the Anantnag district administration, which has freed 41 ‘kanals’ (20 ‘kanals’ form one hectare) in just three weeks. Officials have processed nearly 400 of the 1,000 complaints in the south Kashmir district in less than a month even as 95% of complaints have been found fake.
Early this month, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha had launched a portal for Kashmiri migrants to list complaints about their immobile properties.
“Our field inspections, we have found out that land of migrants has been encroached upon at many places. Based on the online complaints, we have started a drive to reclaim land from encroachers. Our teams have found 22 cases of encroachments, land grab, and trespassing. The entire verification process is transparent,” Dr. Piyush Singla, deputy commissioner, Anantnag told News 18.
Officials said they have served eviction orders in 14 cases and retrieved land after encroachers failed to produce any legal documents. Officials said they are in the process of taking action in eight more cases after due orders are obtained.
Field officials say there was no resistance from the encroachers when they were asked to vacate from the migrants’ land. “Some people told us they were simply keeping a watch on the land. Others removed the barbed wire immediately from the encroached land when confronted.
Officials, however, regretted that most of the complaints on the portal are proved wrong when teams visit for verification.
“Of the 382 complaints that we verified on the ground till Sunday (September 26), only 22 have been found correct so far. About 95% of the grievances are turning out to be false. Complainants are not aware that their elders had sold the property. There were some cases where a complainant was not aware that his grandfather had sold the property under the anti-distress sales act,” said officials.
A revenue official said they have shown proper documents by those against whom allegations were levelled and they were found genuine when matched with official files.
The Jammu and Kashmir government led by Farooq Abdullah had in 1997 enacted the Migrant Immovable Property (Preservation, Protection, and Restraint on Distress Sales) Act, to discourage distress sales by the Kashmiri migrants and to provide for the preservation, protection, and restraint on distress sales of the immovable property of the migrants.
Officials maintain out of the 22 cases that stand disposed, there are around 10 where encroachers have to pay ‘lagaan’ to the rightful owners. A ‘lagaan’ is a tax (it can be a part of produce raised in a cultivable land which a tenant has to pay to the owner if the latter has permitted him to use it for cultivation purposes).
“Since the lagaan is paid in kind every year and the migrants could not visit their original home, we have to evaluate the cost for all these years based on the market rates,” the official said.
Officials who are part of the drive said the land reclaimed has been entered into the registry and handed over to the village headman for caretaking. “Once the rightful owners decide to reclaim it, they would be given the possession,” said Singla.
Officials have released the land recovered: Five ‘kanals’ belonging to one ML Dhar was recovered from Ghulam Rasool in Thagiwara, 6 ‘kanals’ and 10 ‘marlas’ owned by Roshan Lal Kaul was freed from Mohammad Shabir Chopan, 18 ‘marlas’ of Bhole Nath reclaimed from Abdul Rashid in Vessu village of Anantnag. More than 3 ‘kanals’ of land owned by Phoola Raina was usurped by Mohammad Ismail Pala in Akoora village. There are other similar small landholdings that have been reclaimed, officials said.
According to official figures, 41,117 migrant families from Kashmir are registered in Jammu and 21,000 others in Delhi and other states. Of the total migrant families living in Jammu, 37,128 are Hindus, 2,246 Muslims, and 1,758 Sikhs.
There are 808 Kashmir Pandit families comprising 3,464 people residing in the Valley. Non-migrant Kashmiri Pandits are living in 292 locations and most of them are putting up in four districts of south Kashmir.
After L-G Sinha had launched the portal for the migrants to list grievances, he had told the district magistrates to expedite the process of reclaiming the properties of the Kashmiri migrants. Singla says officials in Anantnag have been busy carrying out the drive.