Kashmir: Can an outsider really buy a home in Valley?

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Kashmir: Can an outsider really buy a home in Valley?

Ever since Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced abrogation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir, social media has been abuzz with speculation about buying land and owning a home in the Kashmir Valley.

Rules framed under Article 35A of the Constitution prevented outsiders from buying property in Jammu and Kashmir. Now that the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 is gone, the legal barrier from property ownership by outsiders stands demolished.

The government has said the new law and rules will come into effect from October 31, the birthday of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the former deputy prime minister and the first Union home minister of India.

However, buying a piece of land or owning a home in the Kashmir Valley is not that easy.

Terrorism, unemployment

This could be easier in Ladakh and Jammu regions. The law and order situation in the Kashmir Valley has been fragile for years. Terrorism, aided by Pakistan, poses a big challenge to any outsider's settlement in the Kashmir Valley.

Spell of terrorism since 1989 and accompanied separatism have made the local population largely hostile to the idea of outsiders settling in the Kashmir Valley.

Employment avenues remain very limited in the Kashmir Valley. Government jobs are the only economic security.

Private investment has been negligible which means jobs are few in the private sector. Lack of employment opportunities is another impediment for buying property for settlement in Kashmir Valley.

The memory of the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits is still fresh. Buying a home in the Kashmir Valley under the prevailing situation has no guarantee that it would not be encroached by some terror groups.

When terrorism started in the Kashmir Valley in 1989, it came with the call for jihad. The non-Muslims were asked to leave or face bullets. The pamphlets of terror outfits like Hizbul Mujahideen were published in newspapers. They declared that Kashmir was for Muslims exclusively.

The fact that Kashmiri Pandits and other non-Muslims were living in the Kashmir Valley for centuries carried no weight in the eyes of terrorists, who declared jihad. The government of the day - of Farooq Abdullah in the state and VP Singh at the Centre - failed to do much to prevent exodus of more than five lakh non-Muslims from the Kashmir Valley.

Demographic composition has been at the centre in opposing the Modi government's move on Article 370. Those opposing abrogation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir have accused the Modi government of eyeing changing the demography of the Muslim-dominated state.

Even some of the Pakistani leaders and social media influencers have "appealed" to Kashmiri Muslims "to kill" any non-Muslim purchasing land or settling in the Valley after abrogation of special status.

The government's move on Article 370 may give a fillip to corporate real estate, which may buy huge plots keeping a future prospect in mind. But given the state of real estate in the country, it looks doubtful at present.

And, there is yet another concern.

Restrictions likely

The government may come up with certain restrictions for buying homes in Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Restrictions are already in place in hilly states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and the entire northeast.

Meanwhile, restrictions are being eased in Jammu and Kashmir, which has been on the edge since Union Home Minister Amit Shah announced abrogation of special status of the state on August 5.

The government hopes that the Kashmir Valley would respond to lifting of restriction with normalcy. To some "outsiders", normalcy, however, may mean clearing the way for owning home in the picturesque Kashmir Valley.