The withdrawal of ‘special status’ of Jammu and Kashmir has also done away with the law that prohibited outsiders to buy land and property there. It was a law enforced in 1927 by then ruling Dogras fearing that an influx from Punjab would change the State’s demographic and land ownership patterns.
The law was subsequently incorporated into the Indian Constitution as Article35 A to protect the interests of the peasantry in J & K. With the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35 A, outsiders can now buy property in Jammu and Kashmir, a move the BJP government at the Centre feels would bring in investment there and lead to the development of the region.
But there are certain hilly States in India where such restrictions are in force, which do not allow outsiders to buy land or own property. Since the hilly States have agriculture or horticulture-driven economies, such restrictions have been put in place in the interests of the local people. And in places where such restrictions have been diluted on the pretext of attracting more investment, we have seen unbridled construction and destruction of the ecology and takeover of the business by outsiders, especially in Uttarakhand.
In Himachal Pradesh, a non-Himachali cannot buy agricultural land since the economy is mostly horticulture based. However, outsiders can buy non-agricultural land, but that too with prior permission from the government.. They can acquire– buy or lease– constructed property without prior permission, but the property should be in an urban area and the ownership will be limited to the constructed area alone, that too under the power of attorney, and not to the land on which the property is built.
Article 371 A prohibits anyone who is not a resident of Nagaland from buying land in the State.. Land can only be bought by tribals who are residents of the State. If you are a non-tribal or non-indigenous of Nagaland, then you cannot buy land there because the State is run by Naga customary laws and procedures. Similarly, Article 371 G limits the ownership of land to Mizoram’s tribals. Land can be acquired by the State government only for setting up industries by the private sector. Both Articles 371A and Article 371 G limit the Parliament’s authority to enact any law that interferes with tribal religious laws, customs and justice system.
Meghalaya controls its land usage and transfer processes through the Meghalaya Transfer of Land (Regulation) Act, 1971. Government clearance is required for transfer of land from a Khasi to a non-Khasi Scheduled Tribe. Local customs also prohibit people from buying forest land to preserve the rich forest cover of the State. But in areas falling under the European Ward in and around Shillong, non-tribals are allowed to buy property, including land, provided the transfer is sanctioned by a competent authority.
Article 371 F grants special provisions to Sikkim, which prohibits sale and purchase of land or property to outsiders. Only Sikkimese residents are permitted to buy land there, and only tribals can buy land and property in the tribal areas. Outsiders can buy land in Sikkim, but only to set up industrial units.
In Arunachal Pradesh too, sale of land or property to outsiders and non-tribals is prohibited. Till last year, even the indigenous tribals had no right over land as an individual. The land was owned by communities. Now with the Centre doing away with such provision in Jammu and Kashmir, apprehension is rising in the Northeast.
Former Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla of the Congress sees the Kashmir development as a threat to Article 371G which safeguards the interests and existence of lesser tribals of Mizoram. According to Congress spokesman Lal Lianchunga, the Mizos would strongly resist any move by the Centre to repeal Article 371G.
The Naga Hoho, the apex social organisation of the Nagas, call it an undemocratic move. ” We have the same apprehension in Nagaland. There is a political negotiation going on (between Naga rebel groups and the Centre). If the Government of India does the same thing in Nagaland, it is going to be detrimental,” it says in a statement.
Like Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir too is horticulture based where apples are big money earners. Livelihood of a large section of the people in both States depend on apple trade. Himachal Pradesh, where the BJP is in power, has restrictions on the purchase of land to protect the interest of its horticulture-based economy, whereas such restrictions have been done away with in Jammu and Kashmir.
Lifting such restrictions for attracting investment can also lead to haphazard and uncontrolled construction with severe implications for the ecology as we have seen in Uttarakhand. Only time will tell whether the abrogation of Article 35 A in Jammu and Kashmir has been fruitful.