The opposition National Conference (NC) on Friday joined one of its acerbic critics and arch rivals Syed Ali Geelani in criticising the government on the issue of land leasing at Gulmarg.
The NC extended its full support to the shutdown called by the hard-line leader on Saturday in protest against government’s decision to lease out the land to non-state subjects.
Hizbul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba too have supported the shutdown.
The NC’s support for the shutdown was declared by the leader of the opposition in the state assembly Abdul Rahim Rather during a press conference on Friday. The NC president Omer Abdullah was also quoted by a local news agency for extending support to Saturday’s general strike.
This is despite the Tourism minister Mohammad Dilawar Mir’s announcement on Thursday that the whole process of land leasing was put on hold "till apprehensions are cleared".
"This (stopping the leasing process) is merely a gimmick. The process will not stop as they (government) are not sincere," Rather said.
"We are not followers of Syed Ali Geelani. But it is people’s cause, and we support his (Geelani’s) call for strike," Rather said.
The leader of the opposition termed the land leasing as former CM Mufti Mohammad Sayed’s "hidden agenda to damage the state subject Law (of the state constitution, which forbids non-state subjects of purchasing land and other immovable property in Jammu and Kashmir), and Article 370 of Indian Constitution (which grants the state special status)”.
The NC leader alleged Muftis (Syed and his daughter Mahbooba) were out to damage identity of Jammu and Kashmir, which his party would not allow.
"We never leased out land to outsiders. We gave the land to state subjects only," Rather said and alleged that the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), under the garb of Land Grants Act, was giving land to non-state subjects.
The Land Grants Act (LGA) was passed in 1978 during NC founder leader Shaikh Mohammad Abdullah’s government, which permits non-state subjects to get land for industrial and commercial purposes in Jammu and Kashmir on lease up to 99 years.
Rather admitted that the Law did not benefit the people of Kashmir.
Ironically the PDP has been left alone on the issue as the Congress too opposed the move. The Congress expressed its reservations on the issue editorially in its official organ, the Urdu daily KHIDMAT on Tuesday.
Senior vice president of the state Congress Abdul Gani Vakil appeared even more vocal when he told a public gathering at Rafiabad on Wednesday that CM Ghulam Nabbi Azad was not with the move, and it were the PDP leaders, who were giving hype to it.
Senior PDP leader and Tourism minister Mohammad Dilawar Mir hit back on Thursday and said that it was not the decision of a single party. “It is a cabinet decision, headed by CM Ghulam Nabbi Azad," he said.
What must have been more embarrassing for the PDP is that its senior leader and former Tourism minister Ghulam Hassan Mir also participated in a sit-in protest at Tangmarg by the local residents.
The Mirwaiz-led Hurriyat Conference and Democratic Freedom Party of Shabir Ahmad Shah have also flayed any move to grand land to non-state subjects on lease or by any other way.