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Fear grips land leaseholders after government names Roshni beneficiaries

land lying idle


SRINAGAR: Fear has gripped land leaseholders after Jammu and Kashmir government started naming the people who have availed benefits under the Roshni scheme.

Hundreds of people, who have been holding the lease of land for several decades are also under the scanner.

 

Few petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court challenging the Jammu and Kashmir high court order to quash the Roshni Act.

Last month, a division bench comprising Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice Rajesh Binda has ordered a CBI probe after pointing out numerous discrepancies in the Act.

Official figures reveal that a total of 604,602 kanals of encroached land was regularized under Roshni act. It included 571210 kanals in Jammu and 33392 kanals in Kashmir.

However, people who have inherited the land from ancestors or are the leaseholders are now facing the music.

Former chief secretary Mohammad Shafi Pandit, who has now approached to Supreme Court, is one of the persons named as Roshni beneficiary.

“Land was purchased in 1953 from a retired judge by his mother-in-law and the allotment was made by the then Maharaja of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir in 1936, on payment of the prescribed premium and ground rent,” he said.

Pandit claimed that the transfer was accepted by the government, and the leasehold rights were renewed up to 2016 in accordance with the law. “In most of the leasehold cases, a lot of uncertainty prevailed about renewal. Roshni Act/Rules made it possible for us to obtain proprietary rights on land, on payment of the prescribed amount, which obviated the need for renewal, after the expiry of the lease,” he said.

Senior advocate of Jammu and Kashmir High Court Sheikh Shakeel Ahmad said people, who are the leaseholders or holding nazool land for, say 40 to 50 years, cannot be branded land mafia or illegal occupants.

“A person who is leaseholder or holding nazool land for say 40 years cannot be termed an illegal occupant. He has got the land by virtue of Land Grants Act. He is not an occupier. He has a proper allotment. You cannot brand him land mafia or illegal occupant because the government gave him possession by virtue of the order under the Land Grants Act. When Roshni was passed in 2001, he took benefit. And now if you cancel his allotment under Roshni,   his original allotment under the Land Grants Act survives,” he said.

Senior advocate Riyaz Jan, who has filed a petition in the Supreme Court on behalf of small businessmen said courts can only interpret the law and they cannot disregard the law.

“Unfortunately all these legal provisions of the act and rules have not been brought to the notice of the honorable division bench. As a result, the judgment has been in ignorantia of the rules… Another aspect is Roshni act was passed in 2001 and amended in 2004. It was repealed in 2018. And when the act is declared void ab initio, that means it is nonexistent,” he said.

However, certain elements are using Roshni as an alibi to fan tensions. A vicious campaign has been unleashed to malign the Muslim community after certain groups raised the bogey of `Land Jihad’ following high court judgment to strike down the Roshni Act. 

A cursory look at two lists released by the government has names of only a few Muslims. 

 According to the 2011 census, the total population of the Jammu Division is 5,350,811. Hindus constitute 65% of the population, Muslims 31%, and Sikhs 4%.  Of the total Hindu population, Dalits constitute 19.44 percent. In the Jammu district, the total population is 15,29,958. Of whom 12,89,240 are Hindus and 1,07,489 are Muslims.

Likewise, the united Jammu and Kashmir’s population is 1,25, 41,302 of which male and female are 6,640,662 and 5,900,640 respectively. It includes Ladakh which was then part of the J&K. Approximately 68.31 % of people are Muslims, while 28.44 % are Hindus. Christians are 0.28 %; Jains are 0.02 %, Buddhists 0.90 % and Sikhs at 1.87 %.