Confusing story of land leases in Kashmir opens Pandora’s Box   

By: Deepika Bhan/ IANS

New Delhi: : The case of the untold leases in J&K’s Srinagar could well send Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes into a tailspin. The master detective hardly confronted confusion more profound than the story of government land leases in Kashmir.

Interestingly, two Kashmiris started a relentless crusade against the state land loot in Kashmir and they have been fighting protracted legal battles against all odds and intimidations.

Mohammad Rafiq Zargar of Gulmarg filed PIL 14 of 2012 against the state of J&K.

The PIL sought details and considerations those went into the leases given on government lands in Gulmarg.

Another Kashmiri filed PIL 484 of 2010 titled Pahalgam Peoples Welfare Organisation versus the state of J&K. The petitioner had sought details of lease allotments and considerations those went into such allotments in Pahalgam.

The crusade of these locals went a long was to prompt the authorities come clean on lease allotments in different health resorts and also cities and towns of Kashmir.

The details are startling if not outright shocking.

“Dr. Farooq Abdullah, former chief minister, was leased 9 Kanals, 14 Marlas and 6 kanals, 13 Marlas under survey numbers 8 and 8/1 respectively in Sonwar area of Srinagar city.

“The land is still in possession of the former chief minister. Similarly, Dr. Farooq’s father, late Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah got 11 Kanals, 5 Marlas in Kothibagh area of Srinagar city. The lease in this case expired on October 11, 2020, but the land is still under illegal occupation of late Sheikh’s tenants who run shops on this land.

“Former minister, Raman Mattoo and others were leased 14 Kanals on Gupkar Road. The lease expired on July 16, 2008 while the land continues to remain under the illegal occupation of the former minister.

“Bakshi Bashir Ahmad, son of former J&K chief minister, Bakshi Gulam Mohammad was leased 6 Kanals and 7 Marlas in Kothibagh area.

“Interestingly, the lease expired in 2002 completing the maximum period of 99 years admissible under land lease laws and the legal heirs of the lessee have still not surrendered the possession of this land,” sources revealed.

Tyndall Biscoe and Mallinson society was leased out 28 Kanals and 16 Marlas of land near city centre Lal Chowk.

The lease expired on March 14, 2015 and since then the society is illegally occupying this land.

A report was submitted to deputy commissioner (Srinagar) vide number AC-443/N on February 9, 2018 that the society has violated the terms and conditions of lease.

“The matter is also under investigation of the J&K crime branch,” top official sources told IANS.

Lease of one kanal of land in Lal Chowk was made to M/S Kashmir Talkies (Palladium Cinema). The lease expired on November 27, 2004.

165 Kanals and 13 Marlas were leased to Silk Factory, Drug Research laboratory and HARCO (Rahim and Co) in Rajbagh area of Srinagar.

The lease expired in July 1971, but the land is still under illegal possession of the occupants.

Same sources said one S. Prithpal Singh was leased 2 Kanals, 19 Marlas of government land in Gogji Bagh area of Srinagar and the lease expired in 2003. The land is still under illegal occupation of the lessee.

“Similarly, one Dewan Nand Lal and others were leased 10 Kanals, 6 Marlas in Kothibagh area wherein the lease expired on October 11, 2020 and the lessee has not left the possession so far.

“M/S D.P. Bhosla Pvt limited was allotted 30 Kanals of government land in Pantha Chowk area and the lease expired in 2007 without the successors-in-interest letting go of the possession,” sources added.

One Sardar Ganda Singh was allotted 15 Kanals and 8 Marlas. Despite the lease having expired, the possession still remains with the successors of the original lessee.

One Ram Nath Kapoor was allotted 11 Kanals and 2 Marlas in Shaheed Gunj area of Srinagar and the lease expired in 1958 without the lessee surrendering the possession to the state.

Top sources said once the Land Grants Rules 2022 are implemented most of these beneficiaries would have to surrender prime pieces of land being used for commercial purposes.

“It is a Pandora’s Box. The lid has already been lifted off this box by the UT government through notification of land grants rules 2022,” sources asserted.

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