The recent decision of the state government of not leasing out the land to the non state subjects (not permanent residents of Jammu and Kashmir) has given a reason to celebrate to the residents and small business holders of this world famous tourist destination in Gulmarg.
The residents and the small business owners in Gulmarg and its nearby villages were on a continuous protest for three days hampering the normal life against the earlier decision of the state government of leasing the land in Gulmarg to the ‘private players’ mostly the non state subjects for construction of hotels restaurants and other infrastructure in Gulmarg, so as to provide more facilities to the tourists coming to visit this picturesque tourist destination.
The state cabinet in its meeting on 17 October this year had decided to auction 560 Kanals of land in and around Gulmarg, to give it on lease for 99 years to private players for the construction of hotels, restaurants and other infrastructure here to what the government had said ‘to attract more tourists, by providing them world class facilities’.
The decision of the state government had evoked a wide spread resentment amongst the people of the valley and for the first time the separatists parties shared a common sentiment with some mainstream political parties over the issue- all of them had opposed the decision of the state government.
Hizbul Mujahideen the largest indigenous militant outfit in the valley had warned anyone (non resident of the state) against what it called the grabbing of land in Kashmir.
But now that the state tourism minister Mohammed Dilawar Mir has made it clear that the land in Gulmarg will only be leased to the state subject holders and that no outsider will be allowed to get land in Gulmarg seems to have put an end to the growing resentment amongst the people of the area who earlier blamed the state government of selling the land in Kashmir to the ‘outsiders’.
Jammu and Kashmir enjoys a special status in the Indian constitution under article 370 that forbids non state subjects from purchasing any immovable property in the state, besides a non state subject can not apply for any government job in the state.
“We would have crossed all the limits to stop outsiders from taking our land. Tourists coming to Gulmarg are our only source of income and how could we have surrendered this to the people from outside the state.” Said Habibullah Dar a restaurant worker in Gulmarg, adding he said, “No doubt Gulmarg needs a lot of infrastructure and development so as to attract more and more tourists, but that can not be achieved on the cost of snatching bread and butter from us. However we welcome the new decision of the government of not giving the land to non state subjects, in this way we too would find our share of income not being snatched from us.”
When contacted former tourism minister and MLA Gulmarg Ghulam Hassan Mir told HT, “that was our actual policy not to give land to outsiders and now the people of the area are also happy over this decision. Now I don’t find any reason for the people of the area to protest for. However they now have some local problems so we have called a meeting in Gulmarg with the people in which we would discuss their problems and try to redress them soon.
However the officers in the state tourism department admit on anonymity that by leasing land to the residents of Kashmir would not attain the desired result. “The required infrastructure could only have been developed if the outsiders would have been given a chance to develop the area. Kashmiri people don’t have enough money to invest in Gulmarg, if they had the resources then the required infrastructure would have been developed much earlier” said an officer of the state tourism department.