Order on New Land Laws Does Not Impact Ladakh, Say MHA Officials After Gupkar Alliance’s ‘For Sale’ Charge

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A home ministry notification allowing non-Kashmiris to buy land in the erstwhile state is limited to J&K and does not impact Ladakh, officials told News18, refuting claims by the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) that the new laws have made land owners vulnerable to land sharks from outside the union territories.

Slamming the amendment in land laws, PAGD spokesperson Sajad Lone had said that it “stripped the permanent residents of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh of exclusive right to acquire and hold immovable property in the state -- now unconstitutionally divided into two Union territories”.

Refuting the criticism, an MHA official said: “The Ladakh related notification by MHA only furthers the separation between J&K and Ladakh. It does not deal with the issue of who can buy land in Ladakh."

The MHA notified the Union Territory of Ladakh Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Second Order, 2020 on Tuesday and said that with immediate effect certain laws from the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir which were applicable to Ladakh will stand amended or repealed.

"With immediate effect, the Acts mentioned in the Schedule to this Order shall, until repealed or amended by a competent Legislature or other competent authority, have effect, subject to the adaptations and modifications directed by the said Schedule, or if it is so directed, shall stand repealed," read the order.

In effect, five laws will be impacted. While The Jammu and Kashmir Lambardari Act and The Jammu and Kashmir State Evacuees (Administration of Property) Act will see amendments to mention “Union territory of Ladakh" instead of state of Jammu and Kashmir, three other laws have been completely repealed by the MHA order.

These are the Jammu and Kashmir Land Improvement Schemes Act, The Jammu and Kashmir Public Men and Public Servants Declaration of Assets and Other Provisions Act, 1983; and the Sher-i-Kashmir Universities of Agricultural Sciences and Technology Act, 1982.

On the contentious issue of who can buy land in Ladakh, the decision is pending.

Ladakhis cutting across party lines have been demanding protection under the Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution which would mean non-Ladakhis cannot buy land in Ladakh. Union Minister Kiren Rijiju and MoS Home G Kishen Reddy had reached an agreement with the Ladakhi leaders on the issue before the hill development council elections.

Rijiju had then said that within 15 days of the hill development council election results, talks on the Sixth Schedule demand would take place. “The delegation was assured that all issues related to language, demography, ethnicity, land and jobs will be considered positively and taken care of. A dialogue between a larger Ladakhi delegation comprising representatives from Leh and Kargil districts, under the aegis of Peoples Movement for Constitutional Safeguard under Sixth Schedule, and Union Home Ministry would commence after 15 days of the culmination of LAHDC, Leh elections. Any decision reached in this connection would be in consultation with the representatives from Leh and Kargil."

Former J&K chief minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, however, tweeted on Tuesday that the decision by the Centre to allow non-Kashmiri domicile holders to buy land in Kashmir could impact Ladakh too.

"There’s much confusion about whether Ladakh has been included in the new land ownership order. I don’t know what would be worse: that Ladakh has also been betrayed by the Centre or that only J&K has been put up for sale, thus betraying the Centre’s true intentions & bias," Abdullah said.

"Interesting that the Centre waited till the elections to LAHDC had concluded & the BJP had won a majority before putting Ladakh up for sale. This is what Ladakhis got for trusting the assurances of the BJP,” Abdullah had tweeted earlier.

Incidentally, the BJP won 15 of the 26 seats in the recently concluded Ladakh hill development council elections.