Srinagar : The Centre's new land laws for Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh stirred up a public debate in Kashmir. Notwithstanding the various interpretations given to these laws by local politicians, the common Kashmiri believes that his or her identity and culture would get diluted once these laws are implemented.
Till Tuesday, one needed a Domicile Certificate, which had replaced the permanent resident certificate after the abrogation of Article 370, to purchase or sell land in Jammu and Kashmir. This limited the transfer and inheritance of land to only those Indian citizens who had obtained their domicile certificates.
In addition to the purchase of land, the domicile certificate entitled one to apply for government jobs in J&K, which are still exclusively reserved for the local youth.
After notifying new land rules, which came into force by repealing 11 existing land laws of the erstwhile state of J&K, any citizen of India can now purchase land in the union territory to take up residence or start a business here.
"With the already existing small land holdings, it is most likely that the land ownership scenario in J&K would completely change in a decade or so. It is not just land that would be owned by outsiders, but the impact on the local identity, culture, businesses, etc. would be unavoidable", said Sajad Ahmad, 46, a resident of the old city Srinagar area.
Others believe that the predominantly Muslim identify of J&K would also get diluted. "Being the only Muslim majority state that joined the Indian union in 1947, J&K now stands to lose that central identity. Believing that the locals will not sell their lands after the market prices increase manifold due to the competing new buyers is believing too much", said Zafar Ahmad, 57, a local businessman.
Ironically, while expressing fears about the likely dilution of their identity, the average Kashmiris also believe that there would be better industrial and tourism related prosperity once outsiders join these sectors.
"There is no doubt that hoteliers and industrialists from outside would look at J&K as an almost virgin investment destination now. They would not initially risk their capital by investing in the Valley, but the Jammu division would be their ideal initial investment destination.
"The new business and industrial houses who venture into Kashmir will definitely demand concessions by way of tax holidays, etc. The authorities appear to have taken this into consideration especially in light of Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha's assertion that a new era of prosperity would dawn on J&K because of the new land laws", said Latif Ahmad, 67, a local hotelier.
There is a growing fear along the local business and industrial community that they would not stand the ground against investors and competitors from outside.
The fear of the common man about the dilution of his identity and culture has got compounded because of the statements of almost all regional mainstream politicians that Delhi has a different roadmap in mind for the future of J&K.
(IANS report with minor edits)