As many as 39 memorandums of understanding, or MoUs, worth Rs 18,300 crore were signed at the “Real Estate Summit-2021” held at Jammu on Monday, the Jammu and Kashmir government said.

The summit was a push to attract real estate investments from across the country. In October last year, Union home ministry had introduced sweeping changes to the land laws of Jammu and Kashmir, which now allow any Indian citizen to buy land in the region.

The changes to the laws formally ended the protection of land rights that were earlier guaranteed to long-term inhabitants of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 35A of the Constitution. The provision was abrogated in August 2019, along with Article 370 of the Constitution that provided special status to the erstwhile state.

Since the abrogation of the land protection rights, the Jammu and Kashmir administration has announced new industrial, film and real estate policies to facilitate investments in those sectors.

The 39 MoUs signed at Monday’s summit include investments in the residential, commercial, infrastructure and film sectors, the Jammu and Kashmir administration said in a statement. The next such summit will be held in Srinagar in May 2022, the statement added.

The event was attended by Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State for Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh and Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha.

While addressing the event, Puri said that the investments will create opportunities for economic growth in Jammu and Kashmir as the real estate sector was the second-largest employer in the country. Sinha described the event as a “historic milestone” for the Union Territory’s real estate sector.

However, regional party leaders criticised the move as a threat to the demography of the region.

“While offering to secure the land, jobs, domicile laws and identity of the people of Ladakh, J&K [Jammu and Kashmir] is being put up for sale,” National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said in a tweet. “People of Jammu should beware, ‘investors’ will buy up land in Jammu long before Kashmir.”

Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti asserted that Jammu and Kashmir’s special status had been revoked to “dehumanise, dispossess and disempower the only Muslim majority state in India”.

In a tweet, she added, “GOIs [government of India’s] brazen loot and sale of our resources shows that the sole motive is to annihilate our identity and change the demography.”

Change in J&K land laws

Four major land laws in Jammu and Kashmir used to preserve land in the hands of permanent residents: the Jammu and Kashmir Alienation of Land Act, 1938, the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, 1950, the Jammu and Kashmir Land Grants Act, 1960, and the Jammu and Kashmir Agrarian Reforms Act, 1976.

In the overhaul of the provisions in October last year, the first two laws have been abolished, while in the other two, the “permanent resident” clause has been deleted from sections regulating the lease and transfer of land.

The changes did away with all provisions which barred people from outside the erstwhile state from buying land in the region.

However, the changes have not resulted in huge interest from people outside Jammu and Kashmir to buy land in the Union Territory. In response to a question on the matter, Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai told Parliament during the recent Winter Session that only seven plots of land have been bought in Jammu and Kashmir by outsiders.