Mahajan, Khatri, Sikhs deprived of sale, purchase of agriculture land in some areas

Amendment in Sec 133-H of Land Revenue Act needed

Excelsior Correspondent

JAMMU, Apr 8: Though with abrogation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir on August 5, 2019 by the Central Government, large sections of people including West Pakistani refugees, Valmikis etc who were deprived of their genuine rights by previous successive Governments got their due, the Mahajans, Khatris and Sikhs of the Union Territory have started facing new inequality as they have been deprived certain rights of sale and purchase of agriculture land and taking up farming as a profession.
The inequality has been created with amendment in the State Land Law, sources told the Excelsior.
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They said at least more than 10 lakh Mahajans, over five lakh Khatris and lakhs of Sikhs have been deprived of their fundamental right to buy or sell agricultural land as these communities didn’t figure in the list of “non-agriculturists” under Section 6 of obsolete J&K Alienation of Land Act (No V of 1995 Samvat) enacted in Maharaja Hari Singh’s time and repealed on October 26, 2020 along with half a dozen other land laws. The `casteist’ provision was incorporated in J&K Land Revenue Act of Samvat 1996. Under the repealed law, lists of agricultural and non-agriculturist communities were notified, province and district wise, in November 1939.
However, under J&K Alienation of Land Act, it had relaxation clause for sale of land to non-agriculturists up to four kanals of land for construction of houses. Moreover, after independence, this law was not strictly followed in practice. In view of this, many families of these communities have agricultural land in their names, the sources pointed out.
But the new Section, according to sources, has barred transfer of agricultural land to non-agriculturists and omitted earlier relaxation of four kanals available in repealed Jammu and Kashmir Alienation of Land Act.
But first proviso of Section 133-H provided a window which says: “provided that the Government or an officer authorized by it in this behalf may grant permission to an agriculturist to alienate the land to a non-agriculturist by way of sale, gift, exchange or mortgage or for such agreement on such conditions as may be prescribed”. Second proviso allows lease of land or any other arrangement for entering into a farming or production agreement under the provisions of law.
According to sources, the explanation to Section 133-H says agriculturist means a person, who cultivates land personally in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir as on such date as may be notified by the Government, or category of persons who may be notified by the Government from time to time. This list of “category of persons” (agriculturists) needs to be notified from time to time meaning that it is open-ended, they said.
Significantly, neither the Government has notified such conditions as required under first proviso nor identified categories of agriculturists/non-agriculturists even after one and half year of enactment. But, in the absence of these notifications, the Registration Authority has started rejecting registration of sale deeds in respect of Mahajans, Khatris and Sikhs by applying the definition of agriculturists from Section 6 of 1939 repealed Act.
This has led to a popular perception that these communities have been axed from owning land in rural areas and outskirts of the City in Jammu and Kashmir.
Prominent BJP leader and noted Advocate Hunar Gupta, who has also written detailed letter in this regard to Union Home Minister Amit Shah with copies to Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla among others, commented: “this is brazenly unfair and the Central Government should re-examine the issue holistically and amend Section 133-H of J&K Land Revenue Act, Samvat 1996 in order to do away with this suo moto bureaucratic conspiracy against Mahajans, Khatris and Sikhs”
Hunar Gupta has sought direction to the Inspector General of Registration J&K to immediately direct the Registrars and Deputy Registrars not to deny registration of agricultural land to Mahajans, Khatris and Sikhs by wrongly applying Order No. 546-C of 1939 issued under Section 6 of the obsolete J&K Alienation of Land Act enacted during Maharaja Hari Singh’s time and repealed on October 26, 2020.
Also, Hunar called for immediately notifying the list of category of persons (agriculturists/non-agriculturists) under Section 133-H of J&K Land Revenue Act to do away with this anomaly.
It may be mentioned here that Hunar has also been strongly pursuing the case for deportation of Rohingyas from Jammu to Myanmar.