LOOT OF LANDED PROPERTIES
The National Conference having risen from the debris of Reading Room Party and Muslim conference continued with its Anti-Kashmiri Pandit campaign and thrust culminating in the loot of landed properties which in most of the cases were purchased by the owners with the moneys raised from the sale of ornaments and other precious possessions. A Land Reforms committee with a Hindu careerist as its fulcrum, a mere matriculate, granted extension upon extension, to sanctify the loot, was appointed in April, 1948 with the patent mandate of drafting a full-scale reforms programme for the transfer of land to the tillers after the abolition of big landed estates. The land reforms considered as a means to the betterment of the lot of peasantry could not be rationally opposed, but how shoddily they were scribbled, much less drafted and hastily implemented betrayed bias and vengeance. The Land Reforms committee was not membered and led by eminent experts and reputed economists who could have drawn a fool-proof reforms programme in accordance with the principles of fairness and equity. The vision and perspective of its members was so limited and circumscribed that all available contemporary models perfected only after proper experimentation were neither studied nor cognised for effective guidance and subsequent implementation. The Soviet-type co-operative and collective farms failed to inspire the committee members though land reforms considered vital to the processes of socio-economic transformation were upheld by the communists who had played a key-role in drafting the New Kashmir document. The manner land reforms were executed convinced all and sundry that it was a virtual loot lerpetrated on the Kashmiri Pandits.
The local National Conference leaders and activists, mostly political leaders, in unison with the designated revenue authorities at district and village level worked out the pre-determined mala-fide objective of dispossessing the Pandits of their meagre landed properties. Wrath and fury unprecedented in scale was generated against them as they had been cunningly projected as the only section possessing landed properties. The names of Hindu landlords who were only two in number were frequently projected as the exploiters and blood-suckers to solidify the ranks of Muslims on religious grounds for nefarious political objectives. Ahmad Mir and Musmat Ashraf Begum possessing 4,202 kanals of land and 3,915 kanals of land respectively were never projected on the public mindscape because of the religion they espoused. Two Muslim shrines of Baba Reshi and Dastagir Sahib had a land grant of ten thousand kanals which are said to have been partially snatched away perhaps again on religious considerations. Despite the Hindu ruler, there was no Hindu shrine which had in its possession the same measure of land to augment and supplement its resources. Land reforms at the grass-root level were craftily used as a ploy to sharpen the cleavage between the Hindus and the Muslims.
Lands were looted and usurped by the Muslims when the Kashmiri Pandits were bereft of constitutional guarantees and safeguards as the people of India had yet to draft and adopt a constitution with a list of fundamental rights and duties. Even the state had yet to give a constitution unto itself with a view to creating a state within the state. The Kashmiri Pandits were not aliens, but bonafide citizens of the state of India and before a loot was perpetrated on them, they had every right to defend themselves against such a cruel atrocity. Sheikh Abdullah as the head of an Emergency Administration and Interim government drawing executive authority only from the ruler whom he detested the most hastily embarked upon the infliction of the loot on the Pandits who as per Islamic tenets could not own land and were maligned for owning even small holdings of land and hence spurred by the same motivation could not be spared from the sharp scissors of the land reforms. At the behest of Britishers and communal elements operating from Lahore and elsewhere he had waged a sectarian battle against the Maharaja ostensibly to install a responsible government, which under clear cut enunciations underlines a government responsible to the legislature comprising the elected members on the basis of adult franchise. Was there any legislature when the processes of land grabbing were given a push up? Was there a supervening constitution sanctified under a due democratic process that would have invested the citizens with justiciable rights flowing from it? The state of Jammu and Kashmir despite its accession to the nascent dominion of India had yet to constitute itself as an integral part of the union in accordance with the requirements of a modern nation- state.
Sheikh Abdullah committed a fraud on the Hindus when he made open declarations about the impending land reforms from the pulpit of National Conference much before the reforms were formulated and enacted as law. The Muslim landlords taking the cue and already aware of the dates for the enactment of land reforms, to be exact, tipped off in advance, entered into quick negotiations with their Muslim tenants and showed the lands under self-cultivation or distributed the lands beyond the stipulated ceiling among their family members. The Hindu landlords were at a definite disadvantage as they could not exploit the religious sentiments the same way as Muslims could. It was construed as a deliberate move revealing a design to save the Muslim landlords from the clutches of arbitrary land reforms, which were pushed against the Pandits right from 1947. The arbitrariness of the act was sanctified in a vengeful and brazen manner by adding a sub-clause to the Act when the constituent Assembly was constituted in 1951.
The Hindus for the fact that they were Hindus and Kafirs at war were not paid any compensation when tracts of land were snatched away and grabbed from them despotically and arbitrarily. The Land Compensation Committee was conceived and set up as an eye-wash and a hoax and in utter disregard of material grounds and facts it upheld the arbitrary executive fiat and unjustly fortified the fraud that was committed on the land -owners by the Interim Government in the name of so-called socio-economic reconstruction. As per the report of the said-committee. "To support compensation to such persons will be like telling the tillers that though they morally owned the land, they must buy it from those 'who did not morally own it ". What does 'morally owned the land' mean? What does 'who did not morally own it' mean? The National Conference was ethnically cleansing a community by snatching away its main succour and sustenance without allowing and opening up other channels for its survival and rehabitation and compensation committee was vying with morals and quoting scriptures when what it was sanctifying, upholding and contributing to was stark violation of all norms of ethics and its genuine tenets.
To possess land in terms of law means to own land and as is amply known possession is three-fourths of law. The land was in actual possession of landholders who after due processes of revenue settlement and verification legitimately conducted from time to time were enlisted as assamis by W.R. Lawrence and invested with ownership rights with powers to sell and mortgage by B.J. Glancy and therefore not only deserved compensation but had to be compensated as dictated by law for the losses they were incurring when lands were in the processes of being snatched away for distribution among Muslims. But law was perverted and subverted with all cussedness and it has been so in Kashmir since 1947.
The compensation committee has recorded in acknowledgement that there were some proprietors who had purchased their tracts of land very recently, but despite it, they were not shown consideration and mercy and were brushed off their purchased properties with the same prejudice and vengeance. The committee has also recorded that they had made huge profits from the landed property which they had purchased and hence in view of it they could not be paid compensation. What a logic? The committee labouring under severe communal prejudice failed to learn from the basic principle of commerce that properties are made held and purchased with a view to making profits. The committee virtually played the proverbial wolf and lamb with the Pandits ownring small tracts of land known as 'Chaks'. The orchardists were not dispossessed on one pretext or the other as the Pandits were nor were their orchards put to a ceiling because they are mostly Muslims and they are known world over for having made profits worth crores and having amassed amazing assets and properties.
Records R.K.Bharti, "The Land is taken without compensation when Hindus are involved.
When Muslim novo-rich (VIPs) are involved the Act has taken care of them by providing 'prevalent market rates' under schedule-III Part B of the Act."
Intriguing as it is huge orchards owned by the Muslim rich have not been brought within the purview of land reforms. The Agrarian Reforms Act of 1972 as a satanic act had exempted the orchards laid out before 1971 from a ceiling limit, but had prescribed and stipulated for a ceiling limit for the orchards laid out and cultivated after 1971 Why were orchards laid out prior to 1971 put beyond the purview of a ceiling limit? Why were orchards laid out after 1971 put to a ceiling limit? There was apparently no logical or even reasonable basis for the said-stipulations, but all these stipulations smacked of communal considerations and motivations. The Muslims had already laid out orchards which needed protection and legitimacy and the Act provided such protection and legitimacy by incorporating illogical and meaningless provisions. And Mir Qasim was the architect of these reforms with brimming communal content in them.
Sheikh Abdullah in the wake of his take-over in 1975 as Chief Minister of the state caused the Act to be amended in post-haste with a view to putting the orchards beyond any prescribed limit thus affording lavish patronage and leverage both political and economic to the apple-sheikhs whose orchards endlessly sprawl over acres upon acres of land with no perceptible curbs to their proliferation. It is believed that the Sheikh and his close relatives owning huge orchards in the valley have vitalised and fortified their interests in land against any onslaught in the form of setting a ceiling limit to their proliferation.
The orchard syndrome in reality reflects the creation of 'Kulaks' who enjoy tremendous levels of opulence and prosperity at the expense of that segment of rural poor who were left out and not considered with seriousness for allotment of land the time lands were snatched away ostensibly for distribution among the landless. As the apple-sheikhs are rolling in enormous riches, there is a proclivity fast proliferating to convert the cultivable lands though illegal into orchards and governments of varied brands infiltrated and throttled by the Kulaks have as a matter of design stifled any attempt to thwart the tendency of formulating and undertaking legal measures and introducing a ceiling limit as a matter of prime importance for orchards as well. Kashmiri Pandits as victims to Muslim-tyranny suffered the main thrust of the so-called land reforms and thus have been illegally deprived of their landed
properties by blocking all channels of redressal. But, now, when it is the Muslim Kulak at the land site, the politicals of all hues and shades communally motivated garner and perpetuate his interests and hence there is no necessity felt to frame committees upon committees to formulate dubious plans to trim and clip his wings from further forages into the agricultural lands.
Comments D.N.Dhar." that Sheikh Abdullah had a tendency towards the development of Kulak economy in the rural side. It may be appropriate to mention here that during his tenure of office, there were no leftist elements either in his ministry or in the organization. In tact, he had developed abhorrence for such elements. He did not even refer too often to the New Kashmir programme and his commitment to it."
Had land reforms been conceived honestly without communal bias these should have benefited and shown concern for that section of the ruralites which was landless and therefore economically bereft and at bottom line and wallowing in absolute poverty and deprivation. As is well known the reforms as such were no longer a boon for the landless poor who as per a random estimate are no fewer than 30,000 in number and are obliged to migrate to the heat and dust of plains for earning a pittance.
Why was not surplus land acquired by the government of Sheikh Abdullah from the big landlords by the abolition of their estates distributed among the landless labourers on a priority basis? How was it that despite their abominable conditions and bottom-line penury they were totally ignored and shown indifference and jibing contempt? Their as the real rural poor should have been the first to be the beneficiaries of the reforms which the fact remains were executed without cogent planning and fixation of primary priorities.
Records D.N. Dhar, "Despite the fact that land reforms had led to enormous disparities in incomes in the rural side find had created a big void between-the rich and the poor, it had led to general prosperity and affluence. The fruits of this prosperity could have been fairly enjoyed by all sections of the village community, had not the creation of Kulaks led to the depriving of a large section of rural population from sharing good proportion of the land thus taken away from the landlords.""
The Muslim novo-rich, ruling elite, M.L.As, M.Ps, Government Officers, Judges and Tehsildars et al owning enormous landed properties are a new class of Kulaks who do not cultivate the land themselves as full-time occupation, but employ cheap wage labour from Bihar and West Bengal. As per the Act the essential condition for ownership of land presumably is that the proprietor in fulfilment of his title has to till the land himself, but this new class of Kulaks having taken to multiform trades and varied jobs is proliferating at a fast and furious rate and continues to own land in fact and law. Various Acts passed under different shades of governments have straightaway left out the Muslim Kulaks as immune for the fact that they are Muslims and their interests are supreme and as a matter of concerted state policy have to be garnered and sate guarded.
Discriminatory as it is, as per the Agrarian Reforms Act of 1976 the Kashmiri Pandits though allowed resumption of land for bonafide cultivation have been mischievously put to the rigorous condition of proving their residence at the land site and are said to be required to personally take to tillage in the villages where lands are sought to be resumed. There are a host of other inhibiting conditions which the Pandits are required to fulfill before they are allowed actual resumption. But the Muslim Kulaks continue to enjoy fair share of prosperity without any intervention from government sponsored stipulations and measures.
The Land Reforms Committee, a puppet created under an executive fiat, fixed an individual as a unit of cultivation, not a family. This fundamental absurdity and irrationality was not a freak, but a deliberate piece of design to enable the Muslim tenants, who already had their own tracts of land, to have big estates comparable to the ones possessed by Chakdars. The head of a family with five sons (Muslims have yet to accept family planning) was entitled to own as much of land as was permitted within the ceiling limit and his five sons could hold the same measure of land individually and thus the family could possess a sizeable land holding. Then, again, the six members of the same family could possess and own exempted lands again on an individual basis. It will not be off course to say that the deliberate act of presuming and establishing an individual as a unit of cultivation led to the creation and proliferation of a class of peasants who are prosperous and affluent at the expense of landless labour left uncared for and high and dry.
There are examples galore that pinpoint to the unscientific character and sheer worthlessnessof the entire exercise of land reforms. Land belonging to a Hindu widow completely dependent on it for succour was grabbed and given to an apple-sheikh. A Hindu land - owner who had retired and was living on a meagre pension lost his lands to a Muslim millionaire. A land holder was a petty school teacher whose land was snatched and transferred to a Muslim gazetted officer flaunting pomp and riches. The lands belonging to the deaf and dumb, morons, mental degenerates, physically disabled, cripples and handicapped - all Kashmiri Pandits, were grabbed and transferred to apple-sheikhs, businessmen and affluent sections of Muslims with assets enormous and unlimited.
The Hindus and Sikhs were virtually put on the hit-list of the government and as a result of the hate campaign unleashed against them the revenue authorities in collaboration with the National Conference lumpens and communist ideologues subjected them to the worst brand of intimidation and tyranny much before the enactment of land reforms as law. Revenue records which were kept and maintained flawlessly were suddenly tampered with, manipulated, mutilated and erased. Frauds committed were unscrupulous and base. Manipulations devised were shameless and communally motivated. Revenue authorities expected to be just and objective became law unto themselves and working out behests from the powers that be flouted legal procedures and practices in all vengefulness. Harassment and intimidation of a Pandit or a Sikh was not a matter of aberration, but an over-riding rule. In fact, rule of law was replaced by the rule of Jungle.
There was a startling precedent set by a Muslim Tehsildar in Baramulla who without rhyme or reason yelled 'Hindu-Muslim-Itihad-Zindabad' and took up his blind pen and transferred the lands of a Sikh to a Muslim sitting in his revenue court. Having learnt about the atrocity, the Sikh despite his fighting spirits and bravado meekly and helplessly filed an appeal to the same maverick officer, who was never reprimanded and disciplined for the despotic act he had committed, instead earned accolades and praises Galore from the powers that be. There was vet another example signalling collapse of law set by the Muslim hordes who intruded into the orchards of a Sikh residing at Badgam and chopped off all the fruit - bearing trees in one go and had the audacity to claim the land under their tenancy and astonishingly the revenue authorities without any gualms and queries registered the mutations in the name of Muslim plunderers thereby legalising the entire brutality and encroachment. As the orchards are not subject to a ceiling limit courtesy Sheikh Abdullah's Agrarian Reforms Act of 1976, the cultivators exploiting religious sentiments and deeply conscious of the flight of law and its enforcement agencies transformed agricultural lands into orchards and the revenue authorities, most Muslims, abetted and connived at the blatant outrage and defiance of law.
.Mirza Afzal Beg who was the Revenue Minister and headed the Land Reforms Committee was a ruralite and was believed to own large tracts of land, but people maintain that he along with his close kins enjoyed absolute immunity from the scalpel of land reforms. Ghulam Hassan Malik, a relation of Afzal Beg and one-time M.L.A. from Devasar, District Anantnag was a well-known landlord, but as per the statements of the natives of his village he continued to lord over his huge estate as Afzal Beg in lieu of his switch over to National Conference from Yusuf Shah's camp is said to have immunised him against the virus of land reforms and its attendant damage by tipping him off m advance about the dates when land would be grabbed from Hindus by an enactment. The family of Razdans residing at Salia, District Anantnag had out of prudence or foresight distributed the lands under their possession among natural heirs much before loot was perpetrated on the Pandits, but Afzal Beg with his known credentials bearing personal grudge and animosity against the family was said to have caused the mutations cancelled albeit their registration by competent revenue authorities under due process of law.
Mir Qasim whose studies at Aligarh Muslim University were financed by Hindu Communists had learnt many a lesson in communal politics in his capacity as Private Secretary to Afzal Beg. Being vengeful and communally motivated he did not rest content with the abolition of big landed estates, but engineered the total erosion of the rural base of Kashmiri Pandits through the Agrarian Reforms Act of 1972 delineating the most irrational and unjustprovisions for compensation to the landowners thereby ending their aeons-old tryst with land which they legally owned. The categorization of land masses accordant with a number of factors was not scientifically carried out and despite its shoddiness did not contribute to the fixation of reasonable prices for the said - lands. A kanal of land categorised as the best in terms of productivity, situation, and soil chemistry was priced at a mockingly low sum of one thousand rupees when its actual existing market rate ranged from 5 to 10 lakhs. The other grades of land as per their quality, location and irrigational network were priced for a trice. The tenant as per the black Act selling the same land could sell it at existing market rates. As stipulated in the black Act, the compensation to be paid to the owner was fixed in proportion to the share of produce that the owner was coerced to accept under tyrannical regimes. The compensation for a measure of land if acquired by government in public interest was to be paid not to the owner but to the tiller who is a Muslim. The plethora of measures as enunciated in the black Act of 1972 were biased and communal in intent and substance and to the knowledge of all were contrived to the sinister end of grabbing land from Pandits for transfer to the Muslims.
As per the provisions of the black Act, the Pandits were bereft of their share of produce and their tillers were directed to deposit the said-share of produce with the revenue authorities designated for the purpose who in turn would manage the transmission of it to the owner either in cash or in kind. It did not take Pandits much time to sense the conspiracy that was hatched at governmental level to uproot them from their rural ambience and end their age old love-affair with the lands that they had legally purchased. Despite all forms of lawful protests including submission of representations and memoranda, the Mir Qasim government with an open nexus with fundamentalist forces sponsored by Jamaat-i-Islami proved apathetic and unresponsive and that was how Kashmiri Pandits formed village level committees to fight back the provisions of the black Act conceived to ethnically cleanse them.
Trilochan Dutt, the then Revenue Minister, who had tremendous history in politics, failed to prove smart and nifty to smell the communal tilt discernibly prominent in the black Act and despite pleadings and plaints from the Pandits he prevaricated on an issue that was of prime importance for them as their fate in their natural habitat was being sealed by the very Congress government he formed a part of. On his official visit to Hanand Chawalgam, District Anantnag, he had to face an avalanche of fury unleashed by Kashmiri Pandits determined to wage a do or die battle against the communal government of Mir Qasim. Pandits in swarming numbers from the nearby and distant villages turned up to plead with the Minister for annulment of the satanic Act as it had driven a last nail into their coffin. To the surprise of all, a Kashmiri Pandit granny suddenly appeared on the scene and tearing through the thick crowds, she in all her fury slapped the Minister in his face and weeping and wailing yelled that she had not eaten for the last four days. In his utter consternation, sensing more trouble, the Minister beat a retreat into the Rest House and chased by the violent mob he entered the bath-room for refuge where he was said to have suffered the wrath of giant sized bees and drones and the police posse standing by for the security of the Minister maintained cool otherwise a bullet if fired would have resulted in a blood-bath. The Minister buzzed off the scene quietly. This was the first ever resistance that the Pandits registered against the so-called land reforms.
The violent incident sent shock waves into the government circles and the family of Mir Qasim. As a result the government already in the lap of communal forces proved stiffer than the stiff and continued with its policy of landing the Pandits into dire straits. Sayyid Hussian, brother of Mir Qasim, propping himself up on his cretches, yelled his lungs out to tell and exhort the Muslims to bury the Pandits alive if they dared ask for their share of produce. Sayyid Hussain, a non-entity, who had entered politics courtesy Mir Qasim, was taught by a Kashmiri Pandit languishing in poverty and deprivation. How could Mir Qasim maintain silence when his brother had already thundered against the Pandits? He asked the native Hindus to march out of Kashmir and 10-feet wide road was all open for them. Mir Qasim's fiat to the Pandits was a pointer to the agenda that the ruthless Muslim bigotry in all vengeance had framed for them through the "twenty humiliating conditions" stipulating their total and ruthless annihilation if they dare flout any of the conditions imposed on them in a state ruled by Muslims.
Daniel Thorner on Land Reforms
Daniel Thorner, a die-hard French Communist, who paid a visit to Kashmir during the period land reforms were implemented and enacted has the following remarks:
"From 1948 to 1950 propaganda warfare between pro and anti-Pakistan elements was acute. Faced with what looked like an imminent plebiscite on the question of possible accession to Pakistan Sheikh Abdullah was not wholly confident of support they could muster among the peasantry. To capture the imagination of peasants, to take their minds off the external issue of Pakistan and redeem the National Conference's old promises of far-reaching land reforms Sheikh Abdullah's regime in 1950 rushed through the drastic Act."
He adds, "The basic machinery for enforcing the Act was to be the notorious crowd of Kashmir Revenue Department dating back to the regime of Maharaja. The machinery was utilised because there was no other in existence and because National Conference motivated by the special sense of urgency arising from the plebiscite issue felt it lacked time in which to create an alternative enforcement agency. The National Conference Government did not entrust enforcement solely to the officers of the Revenue Department, but was associated with them at the village level some of the conference's own local political leaders. The intention was for the latter to check on the acts of the former. In the actual process of implementation, however, the two elements cooperated all too Bell with each other at the expense of "actual tillers"
He further adds, "Land reforms in Kashmir has clearly done away with the Jagirs and has weakened the position of all the great land-lords. It has distinctly benefited those individuals who at the village level were already the more important and substantial people. It has done the least for petty tenants and landless labourers, these two categories being the largest in the country side."
Taking the wind out of the sails of publicity given to land reforms Daniel Thorner writes, 'India's most publicised land reforms cannot be said to have succeeded in improving the economic lot of the Kashmiri peasant. Whether the legislation was well conceived for this purpose remains debatable."
Comments he, "In some areas it looked as though the ordinary peasant was confronted with a more formidable combination than he had faced under the rather ramshackle regime of the Maharaja."
Sheikh Abdullah Tells Loy Handerson
Dilating on American meddling in Kashmir, D.N. Raina, an author on Kashmir, writes, "Loy Handerson, the U.S. ambassador in India, told his Secretary of State in a cable sent on September 29,1950 that secret diplomacy leas carried out over the head of the Government of India on Kashmir. During Handerson's talks with Sheikh Abdullah in Srinagar, prominent agenda was independence for Kashmir and U.S. investment therefor. To allay apprehensions of Handerson, Sheikh justified his measure of drastic land reforms by "calling it a tactical move to neutralise the radical activities of communists in the National Coference party rather than a measure of his ideological convictions.
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