State properties

The princely State of Jammu and Kashmir came into existence with the establishment of Maharaja Gulab Singh as its ruler. The Treaty of Amritsar, by virtue of which Maharaja Gulab Singh, an influential military commander of the Sikh Army assumed the title of Maharaja and formally ascended the throne in Jammu, permitted him to annex territories to the south of River Sindh in Gilgit-Chitral region. An intrepid warrior, Maharaja Gulab Singh carried military expedition to the northern areas of his nascent kingdom and annexed these territories to expand the frontier of the Dogra Kingdom on the map of Asia. Three generations of Maharaja Gulab Singh ruled over the state from 1846 to 1947. During this period, Dogra rulers emerged as the only powerful and influential kingdom in the Himalayan Ranges to the north of British India.
As the Dogra kingdom expanded and became strategically crucial among the princely states of the British Raj, they acquired properties for the state at various places in the country including important cities like Delhi, Amritsar, Bombay, Kolkatta etc. The main purpose of acquiring these landed properties was to establish state offices there to work as units in liaison with the British rulers of India. The properties were also for use as rest houses for the royalty. Whether these landed properties were in the name of the Maharajas or in the name of the State, is not very clear. However, the heirs and descendents of Maharaja Hari Singh, the last ruler of the Dogra dynasty whose ouster was jointly contrived by Sheikh Abdullah and Nehru in 1949, never claimed them as their inherited properties. Therefore, the presumption is that these are State properties. It means that only the State of Jammu and Kashmir has the authority of handling the affairs of these estates and properties. Situated at prime locations in the main cities of like Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkatta the country, they are as good as gold mine. This notwithstanding, the State Government has not taken any concrete step during past six decades to take possession of these properties and utilize them in the interests of the State. Except for small properties in Delhi, Amritsar and Mumbai, the bulk of the properties remain in the possession of unknown people ever since the ouster of Maharaja Hari Singh in 1948-49. An area comprising 97 kanals and 11 marlas located at Rajaji Park in New Delhi is in illegal possession of Defence Ministry and CPWD. 1251-kanal property of the State at Sirsa in Haryana is under illegal occupation of Bajwa Brothers and Mirpur Cooperative Society. While replying to the question of NC Member Dr. Bashir Ahmed Veeri in the Upper House of the J&K Legislature, Minister for Agriculture Production Ghulam Nabi Lone gave details of State properties in different parts of the country.  However, the Minister was not able to provide details about the persons or organizations in whose illegal possession the properties stand today. He, however, said that the Government had taken up the matter but the fact was the Governments of the States concerned showed no success in retrieving the illegally occupied land and other properties.
The point is why did the State Government sleep over these properties in different parts of the country for over six decades in the past? Were stakes at work and evading any chance for the State Government to take steps for their eviction? Alternatively, was there abject apathy and no-concern attitude of the administrative machinery in Jammu and Srinagar? Even if the Government has taken up the matter, it is moving at snail’s pace. In that way, it may take a century or two more to fix the issue. Population has increased manifold. Consequently, trade has expanded beyond recognition in our country. People have become more mobile and more interactive. All this shows that in days to come brisk interaction between the people of the Valley with the rest of the country and even world over will increase manifold. Therefore, we will need more rest houses and more circuit houses in many cities of India for providing facilities to traders, tourists, Government officials on duty, week-ends celebrating people, officials in transit and halls and space for celebrating national feasts and festivals. The State Government should take expeditious steps to vacate illegal possession of these properties. Of course, previous Governments have taken some legal steps, but these were only half-hearted. Government has to pursue this matter vigorously. In all probability, the matter may stretch owing to legal implications for evicting a tenant. After all, there are rules that protect the rights of tenants. Yet despite that, the Government has to ascertain the status of these properties and then take legal recourse to retrieve them.

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