Zameen Jihad: Bulldozer rattles Azad, Abdullah, Mufti, Lone and ilk

No one had ever even imagined that a day will come when the custodians of the Indian State would muster courage and unleash a meaningful and result-oriented drive against zameen jihadis in J&K

No one had ever even imagined that a day will come when the custodians of the Indian State would muster courage and unleash a meaningful and result-oriented drive against zameen jihadis in J&K
No one had ever even imagined that a day will come when the custodians of the Indian State would muster courage and unleash a meaningful and result-oriented drive against zameen jihadis in J&K

Nature of Zameen Jihad

Post-1947 J&K in general and strategic Jammu province, in particular, witnessed zameen jihad on an unprecedented scale. Between 1947 and 1975, most of the encroachments took place in Kashmir. In 1975, the Kashmiri ruling elite turned its attention to Jammu province in general and its Hindu-majority districts in particular. The Zameen jihad in Jammu assumed dangerous proportions after 1996 when Farooq Abdullah became J&K CM for the third time. In Jammu province, especially the Hindu-dominated districts, the three fundamental objectives of the zameen jihadis were to change their demography, create a Kashmir-like situation and make Jammu Hindu-free and convert Jammu province into Kashmir’s colony so that they could enrich themselves and Kashmir by draining and fleecing the resource-rich region. They plundered around six lakh kanal state/ kahcharai/ Roshni land in Kashmir and around twenty four lakh kanal in Jammu province. Those “wielding influence had abused their power and position and threw all norms to the winds” and encroached upon state land. In violation of norms, “they got it registered in their own names or in the names of their kin (members of their families or relatives”. “State lands were leased for peanuts, and adjacent lands just encroached. When all this was going on, Government of India was a mute spectator, just turning a blind eye to every wrongdoing of the state’s ruling class. Bureaucrats also plunged into this Ponzi scheme, with the result that lakhs of kanals of land are now illegally encroached upon. Practically, there is no land for development projects… Respective Deputy Commissioners, Revenue officials, and police officers in charge permitted these illegal activities,” a report on the zameen jihad has said. Some of the “powerful and influential people, now being evicted under the ongoing anti-encroachment drive, had been even fleecing rent from the army and ITC for encroached land for the past fifty years”. Such was the nature and magnitude of the zameen jihad in the erstwhile J&K State in general and Jammu province in particular.

Central rule, abrogation of Article 370 a boon

No one had ever even imagined that a day will come when the custodians of the Indian State would muster courage and unleash a meaningful and result-oriented drive against zameen jihadis in J&K. But much to the happiness of the people, it did happen in January 2023. At least nine factors helped the powers-that-be unleash drive against zameen jihadis. These were:

  1. Determined interventions by public-spirit persons like Prof S K Bhalla and chairman of Ikkjutt Jammu Party (IJP), Ankur Sharma.
  2. The comprehensive report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the scale of loot and plunder of the state land under the atrocious Roshni Act, 2001 and the financial loss the pampered, appeased and essentially secessionist Kashmir’s ruling class caused to the state exchequer.
  3. Determination of J&K High Court to expose and bring to justice the zameen jihadi.
  4. The decision of the Narendra Modi government to withdraw the BJP support to the separatist Mehbooba Mufti-led coalition government in June 2018.
  5. The imposition of Central rule in J&K the same month.
  6. The abrogation of obnoxious and seditious Article 370 and discriminatory Article 35A on August 5-6, 2019 under which J&K enjoyed almost semi-independent status and the Kashmiri ruling elite exercised absolute, unbridled and extraordinary legislative, executive, judicial and financial powers.
  7. The conversion of J&K State into two Union Territories – UT of Ladakh and UT of J&K – on the same epoch-making date.
  8. The official actions that rendered Hurriyat Conference and Jamaat-e-Islami ineffective.
  9. The manner in which the Supreme Court consistently rejected outright the pleas against the government decision to retrieve the plundered land from zameen jihadis.

Earlier in 1987 and 2019 and 2022, the SC’s rulings had disappointed the Hindu-Sikh refugees from Pakistan living in Jammu since 1947 and the persecuted and hounded out Kashmiri Hindus as it rejected their pleas seeking citizenship rights and a high-level probe into the Hindu genocide in Kashmir.

The credit goes to the Narendra Modi government, which made optimum use of all these nine factors, and ordered the J&K administration to unleash a relentless campaign against zameen jihadis, notwithstanding the fact that the powers-that-be at the centre has made unjust and invidious distinctions between Jammu and Ladakh. The Modi government had in August 2019 freed Ladakh from the cruel clutches of the Kashmiri separatist leadership meeting the Buddhists’ age-old demand but did not separate Jammu province from Kashmir.

16 lakh kanal land retrieved

Drive against zameen jihadis in J&K UT is gaining momentum with each passing day. Several illegally-built structures on the state/ Roshni/ Kahcharai (grazing) land have been bulldozed during the past few days. According to reports, almost “sixteen lakh kanal State/ Roshni/ Kahcharai (grazing) land” out of more than thirty lakh kanal worth 1000s of crores of rupees has been freed from four former CMs and their close relatives, former ministers and legislators, bureaucrats, police officials, relatives of judges, Hurriyat operatives, sisters and other close relatives of former ministers, land mafia and who not. Over 3.89 lakh kanals of encroached State and Kahcharai land has been retrieved from the zameen jihadis, mostly politicians, their relatives and retired bureaucrats across the Kashmir valley till date and “drive”, according to one report, “will continue without any break till remaining 2.74 lakh kanals of land is taken back from the grabbers”. As for Jammu province, the authorities have retrieved around thirteen lakh kanal encroached land.

Most of the former ministers and legislators and their relatives, who occupied the State/ kahcharai/ Roshni land, belong to the Kashmir-based National Conference (NC), the Congress, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the Democratic Azad Party (DAP), the J&K Apni Party (JKAP) and the People’s Conference (PC). Some of them, including former Deputy CM, also belong to the BJP. Many have constructed palatial houses and business establishments, including huge shopping malls, showrooms and hotels; opened markets; established colonies; set up stone crushers; and banquet halls on the plundered State/ Roshni/ Kahcharai land.

There are reasons to believe that the authorities would retrieve the whole encroached land sooner than later and bulldoze the illegally-built structures, including the palatial house of Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah built on the state/ forest land in Jammu’s Bathindi.

Zemeen jihadis’ reactions

It was expected that the zameen jihadis would react and their supporters would protest and it has happened. Ghulam Nabi Azad, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, Sajad Lone, MY Tarigami, to mention only a few, have all denounced bulldozer with one voice and urged the Narendra Modi Government to stop the anti-zameen jihad campaign. Their outfits and their supporters have held demonstrations at several places, including Jammu, and some of them were violent in which stones and boulders were used to deter the authorities, including police personnel, but with no result.

Padma Vibhushan zameen jihadi Azad has even met HM Amit Shah and urged him to direct J&K administration end the demolition-cum-land-retrieval-drive. So much so, he has defended the zameen jihadis. When asked about “Chief Secretary’s directive to officers to check if anybody making negative statements on the anti-encroachment drive has himself or herself encroached upon a government land, Azad said no one can be stopped from making any statements in a democracy”. He, his brothers and relatives have grabbed several kanals of land in Jammu. Azad, according to the C&AG report, allowed loot of the state land to the tune of 24 lakh kanal state land under Roshni Act, 2001, dismissed by the J&K High Court as unconstitutional and illegal.

Protagonist of Indo-Pak joint control on J&K Mehbooba Mufti has said: “Use of bulldozer has made Kashmir worse than Afghanistan. Palestine is still better. At least people talk. Kashmir is becoming worse than Afghanistan the way bulldozers are being used to demolish homes of people…Elections are no solution to Kashmir problem (read problem of jihad in Kashmir); we want complete solution to Kashmir issue (read merger of J&K with Pakistan)…First they (BJP government) created a wedge between Hindus and Muslims, then between Gujjars and Bakerwals and Shias and Sunnis. Now, they are creating a wedge between the rich and the poor by saying they are going against the rich”.

It is important to note that on February 14, 2018, Mehbooba as CM ordered the police and revenue magistracy not to evict her co-religionists from the forest land in Jammu province’s Kathua, Samba, Jammu, Reasi and Udhampur districts, all Hindu-majority. Significantly, she gave these orders in the presence of two BJP ministers.

Mortally afraid of bulldozer, former CM and votary of semi-independent status for J&K, Omar Abdullah, who says day in and day out that “J&K only acceded to India and not merged with India” and, along with the Congress, settled 1000s of Rohingyas at strategic locations in Jammu district, has said: “Bulldozers should be the last resort”. It would be not be out of place to mention here that Farooq Abdullah, his brother Mustafa Kamal and his son Omar Abdullah and their relatives have occupied 100s of kanal of state land both in Kashmir and Jammu and it was only on January 31 that 40 kanals state land occupied by Nedous Hotel owner was retrieved at MA Road, Srinagar. Farooq Abdullah had stakes in this land. A report in this regard read like this: “The Srinagar administration today retrieved 40 kanals of state land which was part of Nedou’s Hotel that belongs to the maternal uncle of NC president and former CM Farooq Abdullah”.

BJP’s close ally, an ardent believer in the concept of separate nationhood and former minister in the Mufti-led coalition government out of the BJP quota, PC chief Sajad Lone, has condemned the Narendra Modi government and dismissed the ongoing drive against zameen jihadis as an attempt to humiliate Kashmiris. Accusing the administration of “creating homelessness, Lone has said: “New Delhi shouldn’t be represented by bulldozers in Kashmir, but by love and compassion”. Only on February 4, the authorities bulldozed the illegally-built outer wall of his sister Shabnum Lone’s residence in the Kral Sangri Nishat area on the city outskirts by a team of the Revenue Department, Srinagar, to reclaim state/kahcharai land under Khasra No. 3557 from her occupation.

As for the votary of two-nation and CPIM secretary Tarigami, he has said: “Stop creating fear among the people. The administration is insensitive to the interests and sentiments of the general public and that of the individuals and organisations which express resentment against the reckless drive and coercive manner of the evictions. If the present campaign of eviction attains roughshod propositions, it will generate more resentment”.

Central rule, separate Jammu state imperative

The message is loud and clear: Holding elections in J&K UT would be disastrous. Kashmir has to remain under the Central rule for all the times to come as the nation can’t afford to retransfer power to Azads, Abdullahs, Muftis and ilk. Kashmir has to be granted the status of Chandigarh-type UT status and Jammu province has to be separated from Kashmir in the larger national interest. This is the only solution to the problem of jihad in Kashmir.

1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

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