After days of dilly-dallying, the government has finally put on hold the auction of land in the tourist resort of Gulmarg. The decision follows widespread protests and fears that if the land is leased to "outsiders", it will undermine the special identity granted to the state under Article 370 of the Constitution.
But the government’s backing down has only helped widen the gap between the Valley and the rest of the country. The decision to put land lease on hold means that no big hotel chain will invest in Gulmarg.
According to the earlier decision, the land was to be auctioned off to permanent residents of the state. Buyers were then entitled to enter into collaboration with non-permanent residents to build luxury hotels and resorts. But the separatists spoiled it all with their war cry of ‘Kashmir on sale to outsiders’. Their call got an overwhelming response from the people.
No protests over Afzal
The streets are no longer ringing with protests against the death sentence of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. The separatists, who were at the forefront of the demonstrations, are lying low, what with Afzal’s mercy plea to the President taking off the halo of the would-be-martyr.
Azad takes on land mafia
Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has taken a big gamble — taking on the land mafia by seeking to evict them from the more than 2.5 lakh acres of land they occupy illegally. The mafia is enraged, not only because of the eviction but also because of the fear of losing their hold over the people. The only people who are happy with the situation are the revenue officials, who are working overtime to legalise the illicit land deals.
Chinese President Hu Jintao’s visit was widely followed in the state with people hoping for some forward movement on the opening of the transborder Leh-Kailash Mansarover route. But Hu dashed hopes by making no such commitment.
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