J&K told to declare sale of all KP properties ‘null and void’, restore possession in Kashmir

Syed Junaid Hashmi

JAMMU, Dec 4:  Jammu and Kashmir government has been directed to explore possibility of declaring all the properties, movable and immovable, sold by the displaced persons (Kashmiri Pandits) after 1989-90, as “Distress Sales” and declare sales as null and void and accordingly, restore possession of the properties back to respective Kashmiri Pandits who were recorded owners.

Government has been further asked to impose a blanket ban on the acquisition of the properties of Kashmiri Pandits by the state government and also to ensure implementation of Jammu and Kashmir Migrant Immovable Property (Preservation, Protection and Restraint on Distressed Sales) Act, 1997 in letter and spirit. These directions and recommendations have been made by an empowered parliamentary standing committee on home affairs in its one hundred and thirty seventh report.

The committee which has prepared this report was headed by leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj and included several congressman and also Railway minister Mamta Banerjee.  More importantly, Minister of State for Telecommunication and son-in-law of former Chief Minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah, Sachin Pilot was also part of this committee which had been by constituted by the UPA government in 1998 to look in-depth into the “Rehabilitation of Jammu and Kashmir Migrants.”

The committee has further recommended against use of word ‘migrant’ in the context of the Kashmir displaced persons (i.e. Kashmiri Pandits) and observed that it is not an appropriate expression because the affected persons had been forced to give up their homes and hearths against their own will due to the mayhem caused by the militants. The committee has obliquely implored upon the centre and the state government to refer Kashmir Pandits as “refugees”.

Committee has in its report also expressed serious concern over the criminal intent of vested interests to alter demography in the state of Jammu and Kashmir by not only forcibly ousting the minorities but also by changing the property rights in the revenue records, so that the migrants are left with no stake to return back to the valley. It has also observed that government should take appropriate and effective action to safeguard right to properties of the Kashmiri Pandits who have been compelled to flee the state their homes and hearths for fear of their lives and dignity.

Going a step further, the committee has in strongest possible words said that role and responsibility of the Ministry of Home Affairs do not end by merely requesting and advising the state government. Committee has recommended the union Home Ministry to play a proactive role in the matter and vigorously pursue with the government of J&K at the highest level the need for formulating rehabilitation schemes and sending them on time to the central government for further action.

Committee has also expressed deep concern over the pathetic condition of about 4000 Kashmiri Pandits living in the Kashmir Valley.  It has on this account recommended for keeping a special budgetary provision for Kashmiri Pandits left behind in the valley for fulfilling their genuine needs of housing, employment/self employment and improving living conditions.

Committee has also noted with concern that in the absence of adequate and comprehensive policy for rehabilitation, the Kashmiri displaced persons are reportedly being compelled to live in shanty-like camps set up in places like Udhampur, Nagrota, Jammu and Delhi.  It has affirmed that neither the central government nor the state government has adopted a holistic approach to tackle the problems being faced by the displaced persons. 

Among several other recommendations, committee has called for increasing monthly sustenance allowance from Rs.1000 per month per head to a reasonable amount commensurate to the current cost of living, sought insurance coverage for Kashmiri Displaced Persons who are leading a miserable life and many of them suffering from ailments alongside referring to the need for taking confidence-building measures among the displaced persons.

Committee has also recommended that all houses of Kashmiri Pandits lying in dilapidated condition should be rebuilt by government or a liberal grant be offered to owners of the properties to rebuild them alongside assenting to the demand of Kashmiri Displaced Persons for providing constitutionally guaranteed schemes for their social, political and economic upliftment.