Life after Article 370: Kashmiri farmers decry not getting benefits from progressive central laws despite Modi’s promises

Kashmiri farmers protest against government and NHAI | Picture by author

Following the abrogation of Article 370 by the Indian government in August, 2019, a total of 165 laws of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir were repealed. Although this paved way for introduction of progressive central laws related to land etc., the same has not been implemented on ground. This has left Kashmiri farmers questioning the government’s development claims. 

Raja Muzaffar Bhat | 

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KASHMIR – When the debate was going on over repealing of Article 370 in parliament on August 5 2019, the BJP Government made many commitments with the people of Jammu & Kashmir. Around 113 central laws were extended to J&K under the J&K Reorganisation Act, 2019 (first-order). The laws include the Muslim Women Protection of Rights Act, 1986, Right to Information Act 2005 (RTI), Aadhaar Act, Enemy Property Act, Evidence Act, Special Marriage Act, Delimitation Act, Dissolution of Muslim Marriage Act etc. The total number of laws that were repealed in J&K state is 165. They were exclusively framed for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The principal among them is the Ranbir Penal Code, 1989, first enacted in 1932. This was replaced with the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Around 160 erstwhile J&K state laws are still protected which includes J&K Public Safety Act, J&K Public Services Guarantee Act (PSGA) and many other laws. Kashmiri people have been critical of the abrogation of Article 370 but few central laws could have been beneficial to them and yet these laws are not implemented on the ground. This exposes the government’s claims of ensuring good governance and giving justice to people.

“The Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006, was not rolled out until people protested. Instead, forest-dwellers were issued eviction notices and their properties and apple orchards damaged last year around November and December. People had to protest and then only FRA was rolled out, but still, there are lots of issues with its implementation. Similarly, the Prevention of Atrocities Act (SC, ST atrocities act), 1989 is not being rolled out in J&K nor has the government created its awareness in the media. The Right to Fair Compensation Act for land acquisition is also not invoked for the land acquisition of Srinagar Ring road project,” Mushtaq Ahmad, a social activist from Budgam told

Instead of the Right to Fair Compensation Act, 2013, the Government is invoking the J&K Land Acquisition Act of 1934, an outdated law that was repealed after the abrogation of article 370. This is depriving farmers of getting fair compensation under the new law that was extended to J&K post-Article-370 (Fair Compensation Act).

The land acquisition notification for the Srinagar Ring Road project was issued in 2017 under J&K Land Acquisition Act 1934 (now repealed). Under the provisions of the act, the process of land acquisition was to be completed within 2 years. There is a similar provision under the central land acquisition act also (both the old one and the existing one ).

By March 2019, the government didn’t complete the land acquisition proceedings in district Budgam where 600 acres of farmland had to be acquired. The Government paid some part of the compensation to some farmers but the possession was not taken formally. In addition to it, there is a huge group of farmers who haven’t been paid any compensation at all to date nor has the possession of land been taken from them. These farmers ask the Govt to issue fresh notification as the old one used in 2017 has lapsed as per section 11-B of J&K Land Acquisition Act 1934 (now repealed) but Govt isn’t ready to listen to them. They want to conclude the proceedings under the repealed law.

NHAI’s 2017 communication
In 2017, the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) had said in a communication to the J&K government that it had no objection to paying compensation according to the central Land Acquisition Act if that law was adopted by the J&K government. But ever since this law was automatically extended to J&K after the abrogation of special status, the NHAI has not uttered a word.

“How can NHAI utter a word? There is no political will in the government to come to the aid of these farmers? The High Court of Jammu & Kashmir gave several orders asking the Government to issue fresh notification under central land acquisition law, but the Government is adamant to conclude the land acquisition proceedings in several cases under the old law (JK Land Acquisition Act 1934) which was repealed along with Article 370 on October 31, 2019. Very recently the High Court division bench gave one more order in favour of affected people by staying the land acquisition proceedings,” Ghulam Mohammad, an affected landowner from Chadoora, Budgam said.

Farmers in J&K are marginal
The Kashmiri farmers are officially recognized as marginal farmers as they own very small landholdings. As per the 2015-2016 agriculture census, the average landholding was estimated to be around 0.55 hectares in J&K. Unofficially it is much smaller (0.45 hectares) on average. In Kashmir valley, where most farmers own less than one acre of land, any government policy related to land acquisition, especially for “development projects”, needs to take into account the fragile mountainous environment and climatic conditions as well. Affected farmers protested several times in Srinagar. Their protests went unanswered.

“How can the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) give 4 to 5 times more compensation than the market value of land in other states during the land acquisition process and deprive Kashmiri people of even the market value of land? Our land is very fertile and irrigated. In places where there is small landholding, the affected farmers should get more compensation but this is opposite when it comes to Kashmir,” Advocate Bashir Ahmad of J&K High Court told

Official communication from DC Budgam
In his official communication dated May 18 2020, the Deputy Commissioner / District Collector, Budgam requested the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir to guide him about the issuance of a fresh notification for Srinagar Ring road land acquisition as the one issued in 2017 had lapsed due to efflux of time. The letter contained a comprehensive village-wise status report about the acquisition of land for the construction of the Srinagar Ring Road. The district collector disclosed in his communication that in several villages, no approval of the award has been received from the competent authority. He admitted that the land acquisition proceedings for these villages had lapsed.

The Deputy Commissioner, Budgam, then sought instructions from the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, to initiate fresh proceedings under the Central Land Acquisition Act also known as Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in land acquisition, rehabilitation and resettlement act (RFCTLARR 2013).

The operative part of the letter reads:  

“Guide if the land acquisition matters of villages detailed at (a) of the communication are to be initiated afresh as per the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013.”

In addition to it the section 24, subsections 1 and 2, of the Right to Fair Compensation, 2013, which is applicable in the Union Territory of J&K with effect from 31 October 2019, also has a similar provision. The relevant section reads, “…in any case of land acquisition proceedings initiated under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894, (a) where no award under section 11 of the said Land Acquisition Act has been made, then, all provisions of this Act relating to the determination of compensation shall apply.”

High Court orders
The J&K High Court division bench recently stayed the proceedings of land acquisition for Srinagar Ring Road and its proposed construction. The case titled Ghulam Ahmad Paul v/s Government of J&K was listed for hearing before the division bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mittal and Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul on June 4, 2021.

The court said that until further orders, the parties are directed to maintain the status quo concerning nature and possession of land in dispute. Last year the High Court in the matter of Abdul Salam Bhat v/s State of J&K said that Govt must issue a fresh notification if it requires the land for a new highway in the villages where no compensation was paid and the land was still in possession of the farmers. That order has also not been implemented. It took the government more than 5 months to file the counter-response.

“Government of India is well aware of the fact that Kashmiri farmers have a meagre landholding. Keeping this into consideration the affected farmers in Kashmir should be given more compensation during the land acquisition process. But the affected people are not even paid the compensation that is equivalent to the market rate. This is injustice. PM Modi told us we would get justice after the abrogation of Article 370, but we are even denied the fair compensation under the new law,” Ghulam Qadir, an affected landowner from Ganji Bagh Budgam said.

The obsolete outdated and repealed law is invoked to snatch land and property of Kashmiri farmers. This is open loot of their land and property. For apple trees assessment is made at Rs 16 per kilogram of apple fruit. This rate was applicable more than 27 years ago. The farmers whose 500 acres of land were acquired near Srinagar airport by the Defence Estates Department have also not been paid compensation. Their compensation file has been in the Defence Ministry for the last 4 years and land has already been taken into possession. The farmers were paid Rs 38 lakhs per acre in 2012 and were assured to be paid more within a year but to date, nothing has been paid to them?

“The market rate in the area is Rs 8 to 9 crores per acre, but the government is forcing us to take Rs 1.20 Crore per acre. How can we agree?“ questions Nazir Ahmad, an affected landowner whose two acres of land has been already acquired.


Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is a Srinagar based writer and columnist. He is an Acumen India Fellow. He can be reached at [email protected]