In Kashmir’s battle between ‘nationwide integrity’ and ‘identification’, land has remained a quiet catalyst round its politics


When politics round ‘identity’ and ‘development’ has juxtaposed in Kashmir, land would all the time be the centrepiece.

View of the Pahalgam Valley in Jammu and Kashmir. Image courtesy KennyOMG/Wikimedia Commons

Land has all the time been integral to politics in Kashmir. While it has immensely formed the political developments within the erstwhile state; it continues to hold excessive on latest developments as effectively. It gained’t be stunning to see the longer term political formations being formed across the points regarding land. The debate intensified just lately when the Central Government notified the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third order, saying a plethora of adjustments to the prevailing land legal guidelines, thereby heralding a brand new period within the land politics of Jammu and Kashmir.

Much has been talked about how politics in Kashmir has drastically modified after Article 370 was learn down from the Indian structure final yr. While alterations with the federal construction have been numerously enumerated upon, nonetheless, such analyses of Kashmir politics would moderately give it solely a perfunctory therapy if we don’t perceive how intimately has been land linked to totally different epochs of post-1947 politics.

In order to grasp how land points have formed the politics in Kashmir all through fashionable historical past, it’s crucial to mirror upon the latest adjustments which might doubtlessly change the agrarian relations in Kashmir ceaselessly. However, that may under no circumstances diminish the significance land holds in Kashmir politics and we imagine that land would stay a preponderant function of how we analyse the regional political dynamism from inside and with out.

The latest adjustments

The central theme working by the just lately notified legislations, such because the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third order, the Big Landed Estates coverage, and the newly fashioned Domicile Rules, is that they’ve massively liberalised the factors for not solely buying the residency rights but additionally for buying property anyplace within the erstwhile state. These adjustments invited a combined response.

While the political events and civil society teams from Kashmir have unequivocally condemned the transfer which they argue are aimed toward ‘disempowering’ the ‘domiciles’ and aimed toward altering the demographics of the area. Even in Hindu dominated Jammu area one doesn’t see overwhelming enthusiasm to those adjustments, though the area continues to vote for BJP (latest BDC elections is a living proof).

The mainstream Indian response, however, has been cordial to such adjustments with the ruling authorities realizing its electoral guarantees to opening the gates of ‘paradise’ to them. However, what was frequent to those narratives is that they’ve personified land as one thing integral to ‘identity’ within the former case and ‘national integrity’ within the later, thus reiterating and upholding the custom of land-centric populist politics in Kashmir.

Revisiting how land points formed politics post-1947

The agrarian historical past of Jammu and Kashmir has by no means seen a day of stability. In order to grasp these nuances, it is very important mirror upon the backdrop of how totally different epochs of historical past have witnessed a pointy contestation over how land relations have been structured.

After 1947, redistribution of land was most likely essentially the most highly effective technique to ameliorate the crises which the agrarian sector in Kashmir was engulfed with. Pre-1947 noticed political mobilisations round land points towards the Dogra oppression and the regressive taxations being adopted.

In such a political milieu, the historic Big Land Estate Abolition Act, 1950 was launched which radically reshaped the agrarian politics and ended feudal landlordism. How a lot prosperity did the peasantry witness beneath the modified situations is nonetheless one other debate? (see Aijaz Ashraf Wani, What occurred to governance in Kashmir, OUP, 2019). It is, nonetheless, necessary to notice that lakhs of acres of land have been steadily transferred to landless tillers, thus ushering a brand new period within the agrarian historical past of the state.

Different populist traits have marked the Kashmir historical past in another way. In a state of affairs the place greater than 90% of the Muslim inhabitants was landless, the opportunity of any land restructuring was certain to profit the Muslim peasantry immediately, wrote David Devdas in The Wire.

However, it doesn’t imply that non-Muslim landless peasantry didn’t profit. After the early redistributions, the importance of land and politics over the problem additional intensified. It is on this path that through the Sadiq’s liberalisation period, the progressive taxation system was launched to liberate the small land-owning class from the cost of land income.

Another section in land politics was witnessed throughout Mir Qasim’s rule. The introduction of the Jammu and Kashmir Reform Act 1972 redefined the land possession and ceiling rights.

Sheikh Abdullah after resuming the cost in 1975 once more resorted to the sooner technique and resultantly the Jammu and Kashmir Agrarian Reforms Act 1976 was handed; abolishing the absentee landlordism and redistributing the excess land. This opened one other chapter within the historical past of land reforms within the state which not solely helped Sheikh to revive his misplaced glory to some extent however long-established the longer term politics to function inside the populist body which was crafted a long time in the past.

Why research historical past?

If language can form the way in which we expect, historical past ought to in each approach style our understanding of the current. It turns into essential to understand the Jammu and Kashmir State Lands (Vesting of Ownership to the Occupants) Act —additionally named Roshni Act 2001 — within the backdrop of varied historic trajectories which have formed the counters of state politics since 1947.

The Act was initially handed in 2001 throughout Farooq Abdullah led NC-Congress coalition authorities. However, additional amendments have been launched by Mufti Syed led PDP-Congress coalition authorities in 2007. In the modified political milieu of the state, it was first repealed in 2018 and transaction made beneath the scheme have been probed after Article 370 was learn down in 2019.

The story nonetheless doesn’t finish right here, propaganda over ‘land jihad’ and later the petitions to assessment the phrases of judgement by the federal government was peddled within the wake of DDC elections within the area. This once more reified the age-old custom of populist politics in Kashmir.

With such historic baggage, land points in Kashmir reached new ascendency, thus stretching out their affect over the a long time. If we appraise the main political developments since 1947, land has in a single or the opposite approach been the focus of all of the regimes to materialise their ‘legitimation crises’, it doesn’t matter what the circumstances.

Approaching to analyze and perceive historical past on this approach turns into extra necessary now like by no means earlier than, when politics round ‘identity’ and ‘development’ has been juxtaposed, making land the centrepiece.

Muzamil Yaqoob is a post-graduate from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New-Delhi and Aijaz Ashraf Wani is a senior Assistant Professor of political science within the University of Kashmir and the writer of What Happened to Governance in Kashmir? revealed by Oxford University Press, 2019.

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