Nearly 40 years after India and Pakistan last went to war, an antiquated law, the Enemy Property Act, meant to seize assets belonging to Pakistani nationals in India, has come back to haunt their Indian inheritors.
The besieged families — 11 in Delhi and 3 in Kolkata, whose properties now face threat of seizure — feel a wartime law is being used to “harass” them because their ancestors had Pakistani relatives, their lawyer Atyab Siddiqui told HT.
The 1968 legislation, designed to hit back at Pakistan for seizing Indian-owned assets during the 1965 war, defines “enemy property” as that “belonging to or managed on behalf of” an enemy country or its citizens.
Kausar Iram’s 300-year-old crumbling house in Delhi’s old city now comes with an “enemy” tag. The Mumbai-based Custodian of Enemy Properties, a relic of the Indo-Pak wars, slapped notices in February, declaring her home as “enemy property”. But she won’t give up.
In Kolkata, those served notices for possessing “enemy property” include Bow Bazar residents Masood Alam (66 Phears Lane) and Asif Khan (14/2 Colotola Lane) and Parvez Alam of 44-A Ratu Sarkar Lane, Jorasanko.
“The notices were issued in accordance with law. Those affected can defend themselves,” Custodian of Enemy Property for India, Dinesh Singh, said from Mumbai.
Many issued notices two months ago claim the original owners were Indian nationals.
Old Delhi resident Syed Yusuf, whose house too has come under the scanner, said his father inherited his home from his grandmother. “We have proof to show the original owners were Indians —they held Indian passports.”
Iram said her house originally belonged to a distant relative, Rehman Elahi, who died in Pakistan in 1976 during a visit.