Row In J-K Over Property Rights
3 May 2005
The Times of India
Srinagar: Though the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service has herald a new chapter in Indo-Pak ties, it has kicked off a row in Jammu and Kashmir over the issue of granting rights to the property left by Kashmiris who migrated to Pakistan occupied Kashmir in the wake of the partition. The controversy began when senior Congress leader and Deputy Chief Minister Mangat Ram Sharma publicly opposed the idea of transfer of property to those who had migrated to PoK in 1947, ignoring the resettlement law passed by the state legislature twice in 80's. He sought the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir resettlement law which provides for rehabilitation of any of the migrants wishing to settle in the state. To protect the property of these migrants, the state government had set up the Custodian Departement in 1947. Since the opening of Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service, the departement has received applications from a number of persons seeking transfer of property. Some of the claimants have even approached state Revenue Minister Hakim Mohammad Yasin who is not averse to handing them over their property. 'It is their property. It is in their names. We are only custodians. We will hand it over to them anytime they ask for it,' Yasin said. One of the claimants, Farededa Gani who was a passenger on the first bus from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar, is the first person from PoK to reclaim her ancestral property in Kashmir. Her father Abdul Gani had left behind several houses and sizeable land when he migrated to PoK. While the migration was minimal in the valley, Jammu, Rajouri and Poonch witnessed mass exodus of Muslim population and hundreds of hectares of land and other properties were left behind in the state by a large number of people who had migrated to PoK at the time of the partition. Opposition National Conference reacted angrily to the statement of the Deputy Chief Minister, saying the government has no powers to abrogate the Resettlement Act. Leader of the Opposition and former Finance Minister Abdul Rahim Rather termed Sharma's demand to reject the Act as 'unjustified' and said it provides for determining the rights of those residents of the state, who had gone across the Line of Control in 1947, on the property they had left in Jammu or Kashmir valley. Rather said the NC had passed the Resettlement Bill in 1980 in both houses of state legislature and sent it to the then Governor B K Nehru for ratification. After the death of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, the author of the bill, it was sent back to the state government.