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Union government on Tuesday notified rules to allow Indian citizens from outside Jammu and Kashmir to purchase land in the Union territory.

The move is significant, considering that before Article 370 and Article 35-A were repealed in August 2019, non-residents could not buy any immovable property in Jammu and Kashmir. The move comes about 14 months after the bifurcation of the state and passage of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.

In a gazette notification of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of Central Laws) Third Order, 2020, the Union government omitted the phrase “permanent resident of the state” from Section 17 of the Jammu and Kashmir Development Act, which deals with disposal of the land in the Union territory.

The amendments, however, do not allow transfer of agricultural land to non-agriculturists, Jammu and Kashmir lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha said.

The decision sparked a fresh political war of words with the National Conference (NC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) opposing it.

Senior NC leader and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah said the announcement was unacceptable and asserted that Jammu and Kashmir was not up for sale.

“Unacceptable amendments to the land ownership laws of J&K. Even the tokenism of domicile has been done away with when purchasing non-agricultural land and transfer of agricultural land has been made easier. J&K is now up for sale and the poorer small land holding owners will suffer,” Abdullah tweeted on Tuesday.

PDP chief and former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti called for a united fight by the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, and said the three provinces should come together to fight against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

“Yet another step that’s part of GOI’s nefarious designs to disempower and disenfranchise people of J&K. From the unconstitutional scrapping of Article 370 to facilitating loot of our natural resources and finally putting land in J&K up for sale,” tweeted Mufti.

The central government has said that bringing development to Jammu and Kashmir is key to ensure that the youth are weaned away from joining the ranks of terrorist groups operating there. Ensuring investments in the region is seen as crucial to develop industry and give employment to the people especially the youth, it said.

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