Geelani Warns Against Sainik Colonies, JK Govt Says 'What Are You Talking About?'
The civil society in Kashmir, the opposition National Conference as well as the Hurriyat Conference led by Syed Ali Geelani have asked the J&K government to come clean on the issue of building colonies for ex-servicemen in Kashmir Valley.
Terming the move as ‘"open aggression on Kashmir", Geelani said the state of Jammu and Kashmir is disputed under international laws and the government of India has "no legal or moral justification" in settling the ex-servicemen in Kashmir Valley.
“It is a resist or die like situation for the Kashmiri people and any carelessness on this sensitive issue will prove a final nail in the coffin of our existence, identity and our freedom struggle and we will become strangers in our own land,” Geelani said.
Moved by Tarun Vijay, the BJP's Rajya Sabha MP on May 8, 2015, the proposal seeks “a piece of land or a well-built apartment on a 99-year lease” in the Valley to soldiers or the kin of those who have laid down their lives while battling insurgency in Kashmir.
The proposal sparked an uproar from the civil society and the National Conference against the then chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed with the Hurriyat warning of mass agitation in the Valley. The opposition accused Sayeed of eroding the special status of J&K.
According to new reports, the controversial proposal was fast-tracked when the state was under Governor NN Vohra’s rule earlier this year and now the chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has written to the deputy commissioners of Srinagar and Budgam to finalise the process "at the earliest".
"I don't know which proposal you are talking about," Mehbooba told reporters outside the Sher-e-Kashmir convention centre in Srinagar Friday after a meeting to review traffic scenario in the capital Srinagar. Interestingly, the state BJP also opposes the plan, "We have a state subject law. Anyone who is a state subject is free to live here," deputy chief minister Dr Nirmal Singh said.
Stung by the uproar, the state government Saturday issued a vaguely worded statement, saying that "no land has been allotted or is being allotted anywhere in Kashmir for any housing project in the name of ‘Sainik Colony’".
“Like some other sections of the working class and professionals, the ex-servicemen belonging to the state have been demanding land for a housing colony, but no allotment of land for any such project has been made anywhere in the Valley,” state government spokesman, Naeem Akhtar said.
Last year in April, the Rajya Sainik Board (RSB), headed by Vohra, approved establishment of a Sainik colony in Srinagar. In a note to the state's home department, the RSB sought approval from the chief minister Sayeed to lease out land measuring 173 kanals close to the old airport for the colony.
Former CM Omar Abdullah said the government’s proposal to go ahead with the “allocation of land in the Valley for the proposed Sainik Colony could be a ruse to settle non-state subjects in Kashmir and hence bypass Article 370.”
Omar said the PDP-BJP government’s “contradictory statements” on the Sainik Colony proposal had given rise to apprehensions about their “underlying political motive.”
“From denying that land is being provided to the ‘Sainik Colony’ to the administration officially writing to the concerned officers to identify the land for the colony, the PDP-BJP government has come a full circle. Considering their track-record over the past more than a year, people have serious apprehensions and rightly so. The chief minister continues to be vague on this issue and it seems she has been implicitly ordered not to interfere," Omar said.
Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies, the largest civil society gathering in the Valley, said the state government and New Delhi were planning to construct permanent “Sanik Colony” for retired army men, permanent shelters for homeless non-state subjects and wanted to build separate enclaves for Pandits.
“These are clandestine moves to dilute state subject law and communalize Kashmir in the most sinister manner. The KCSDS and High Court Bar Association warn the State Government in strongest terms against the implementation of these illegitimate plans aimed at legitimizing the illegal settlements,” Prof Hameedah Nayeem, the chairperson of KCSDS said at a press conference in Srinagar.