The Indian Constitution provides equal rights to every citizen of the country. It clearly states that no Indian citizen can be discriminated on the basis of religion, caste, creed, colour and sex. But in Jammu and Kashmir the “Right to Equality” was violated by the former regimes in many ways.
The kith and kin of the influential people were extended favours and treated as privileged class. It’s unfortunate but true that the erstwhile regimes provided prime land including Mandir Land worth billions of rupees at throw away price to selected people. The beneficiaries were allotted prime commercial and residential land as they were close to power corridors. Their possession was turned into ownership by introducing schemes like Roshni act .
The beneficiaries were even given the possession of Forest and Nazool land.
After the abrogation of Article 370 steps were taken by the Prime Minister’s Office, UT administration to ensure that all are treated equally. Former Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court Gita Mittal also played a pivotal role in ensuring that “Right to Equality” is implemented in letter and spirit in J&K.
The Present regime led by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinhahas tightened its noose around the people who grabbed whatever they could by using their influence and proximity with the power corridors. The land allotted to the “preferred class” for residential purposes are used for commercial purposes and the beneficiaries earned crores.
The erstwhile regimes leased out prime land at Gulmarg and Phalagam to the selected business families in Kashmir and they continue to hold that land despite lease period ending long back.
According to the laid down rules the beneficiaries have to surrender the land after the lease period expires so that it can be auctioned and the highest bidder gets the possession.
The present dispensation led by LG Sinha needs to ensure that no one becomes rich by violating the laid down rules and norms. The land allotted to the individuals whose lease has expired should be taken back and auctioned according to the spirit of law so that every businessman gets a chance to participate in the auction and tries his/her luck.
It’s not only about the prime properties that were allotted to a particular set of people. Even the loans were given to them. On the pretext of settlement they ensured that they paid a lump sum amount and saved themselves from making the full payment. Unfair concessions had pushed the common man away from the system, but now his faith is being restored as such beneficiaries who enjoyed political patronage in the past are being held accountable. These elite people have made a fortune by not repaying the loans. The J&K Bank should publish the list of all high-value defaulters in leading newspapers who have not been touched in the past.
After Manoj Sinha has taken over as the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir he has tried his best to ensure that no one gets undue favours and the injustices that have been done in the past are undone. The anti-graft agencies have been given more powers and it has been ensured that no one interferes in their functioning. During the past three years many big fishes have been caught and nailed and the system has become transparent. However, some big business families are still reaping the dividends of the benefits that they had received during the tenure of the erstwhile political dispensations.
The J&K’s transition into a Union Territory has brought to the fore that the former rulers acted like monarchs. They believed that they could do anything and no one has the right to question them. But the Centre’s August 5, 2019, decision to revoke the so-called special status of J&K has empowered a common man and he is asking questions. He wants to know why only selected people were provided all the privileges and benefits? Why was the common man ignored?
J&K people are hopeful that the present dispensation won’t allow any “big man” to go scot free and all those who used to think that they are “special” would be treated at par with the common denizens of Jammu and Kashmir.
The government agencies need to prepare a list of such businessmen scandalous people, who on the name of subsidy and loan waivers have dented the J&K’s exchequer and the money that could have been used for the benefit of the common man has been utilized only and only for their good.
The J&K has changed and the change is visible. Holding the big beneficiaries accountable could be one more step towards sending a message to a common man that era of discrimination in J&K has ended and the changes that have taken place are irreversible.
The writer is a journalist, political activist and President of International Centre for Peace Studies (ICPS).
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.