Kashmir: Owning a house in valley is a bridge too far


Despite lifting of restrictions on property purchase by non-domiciled Indian citizens in Kashmir after Article 370 abrogation, Tehelka SIT report reveals Kashmiris’ reluctance to sell their land to ‘outsiders’

“If someone in Kashmir chooses to sell land to a non-Kashmiris, often referred to as ‘outsiders,’ out of greed following the abrogation of Article 370, they are likely to encounter resistance from their fellow Kashmiris. Moreover, the outsiders who will buy land in Kashmir will also face opposition from the people of Kashmir, who would be unwilling to permit outsiders to settle in Kashmir.” This is how Gulzar Ahmad Bhat, a tour operator from Kashmir, described the situation in Kashmir while speaking with Tehelka. Gulzar says that even if the outsiders pay them double the amount of our land, people of Kashmir will not sell their land to them. Gulzar contended that if people of Kashmir start selling their land to ‘outsiders’ after the scrapping of Article 370, a flood of outsiders would come and settle in the valley.This, he said, will not only change the demography of the valley, but will also pose serious threat to the identity of the Kashmiri people.

After the J&K Special status under Article 370 of the constitution was withdrawn on 5 August 2019, the Government of India issued a notification stating that any Indian citizen can now buy land, except agriculture land, in municipal areas of Jammu and Kashmir even if he or she is not the domicile of the state. After this notification, the union government told Rajya Sabha in April 2023 that 185 people from outside Jammu and Kashmir [J&K] have bought land in the Union Territory – including in Kashmir – in the last three years.

“As per the information provided by the government of J&K, a total of 185 persons from outside the State have bought land in the UT during the year 2020, 2021, and 2022. One person bought land in 2020, 57 in 2021 and 127 in 2022”, Union Minister of State [MOS] for Home Affairs, Nityanand Rai, informed the Rajya Sabha in response to a written question.

According to the figures provided by the government in the Rajya Sabha, 57 people from outside Jammu and Kashmir bought land in the Union Territory – including Kashmir – in the year 2021. But a Tehelka’s reality check done in the same year in 2021 in Kashmir valley, indicates that people in Kashmir are not willing to sell their land to non-Kashmiris.

We met Gulzar Ahmad Bhat, a transporter from Srinagar, while visiting Kashmir in 2021 after Article 370 was abrogated. We gave Gulzar a fictitious deal, saying that we wanted to buy land in Kashmir. Gulzar initially agreed to arrange land for us, but later denied it, saying that outsiders won’t find land to buy in the valley. According to Gulzar, though after the abrogation of Article 370, outsiders can legally buy land in Kashmir, no Kashmiri would sell his or her land to a non-Kashmiri, even if  he gets double the market price of the land. Gulzar said that the residents fear that if outsiders start settling down in Kashmir in large numbers, the demography of the area will change, and Kashmiris will face threat to their identity.

Reporter- Ye bataiye 370 hatney k baad mein is elakey mein, yahan zameen lena chahta hoon , mil jayegi. ?

Gulzar- Kanoonan to aap le saktey hain kyunki 370 tod diya ye log, magar hum Kashmiri aapko zameen bechney k liye nahi taiyar hain, chahey aap humko double keemat dein..kyunki issey hamari pehchan hi nahi rahegi, itna bada mulk Hindustan, hamari population 1 crore 30 lakh hai J&K ki, usmein, 70-80 lakh total Kashmir mein hain, is mein agar bahar se 1 crore log basney aa gaye to hamari pehchan kaha rahi, hum to phir gum ho jayengey.

Reporter- Main to Muslim hoon, aap to keh rahe they aapko bech dengey kashmiri..?

Gulzar- Nahi wo to mainey aapko aisey hi bola, Muslim ho Hindu ho sab insaan hi hai, mujhe nahi lagta koi bechne ko taiyar hoga..ye to force k bal par toota na, hamari to razamandi nahi hai.

Reporter- To aap ye keh rahe hain, Kashmir mein koi bhi apni zameen non-kashmiri ko nahi bechega..?

Gulzar- Nahi bechega, jahan tak mera sochna hai, mera tajurba hai, nahi bechega…

 [Gulzar rejected our proposal to buy a piece of land in Kashmir by trotting out an argument that with a mere 70-80 lakh Muslim population in the valley, Kasmiris will be overwhelmed and lose their identity if the they started allowing outsiders to settle down here. ]

Gulzar told us that he is a driver, and even if we offer him ten times the market price of his land, he would not sell it to us. Gulzar says that anybody with integrity would not sell his or her land to outsiders, no matter how high the price they offer. He says that he will not do anything which would spoil the future of the next generation.

Reporter- Aap itni behetreen jagah ghooma rahe hain Pehelgam mein, yahan dilwa dijiye…?

Gulzar- Main to yahi keh raha hoon agar 10k ki cheez k aap 1 lakh dogey, to nahi bechega jiske pass zameer hai…seriously to koi nahi bechega. Main ek driver hoon..agar mere pass 1 lakh ki zameen hai.. aap kahogey 10 lakh dunga, mein to nahi bechunga… mein aisa kuch nahi karunga ki aaney wali generation ye boley ki hamarey purkho ne ye kiya…

[Gulzar said that even if we offer him 10 times the market price of his land, he would not sell his land to us. He said that he did not want the next generation to remember him as ill-doer.]

Gulzar then argued that non-Kashmiris can go anywhere in India and settle. “Why Kashmir?,” he wondered.  He said that if someone out of greed decided to sell his land in the valley to outsiders he would have to face the wrath of the locals. And the outsiders also would face tough time here as locals will not allow them to settle down.

Reporter- To aap ye chahtey hain ki hum, yani non-Kashmiri kahin bhi jakar bas jaye magar Kashmir mein nahi…

Gulzar- Bilkul hum to nahi denge… mujhe nahi lagta jiska zameer hoga, achi soch hogi.. wo ye karega…baki lalach wale logon ki kami nahi hai…phir bhi agar koi karega, to usko apne logo ka samna karna padega…kyunki wo uska viroodh karenge…suppose karo ye elaka ho gaya yahan aapko koi zameen bech de…to pehle to aap hi nahi aa paogey…magar phir bhi agar aap aa gaye to log aapko alag nazar se dekhengey, aap settle nahi ho paogey…

[Gulzar explained that both seller and the buyer of the land in the valley will not have it easy in Kashmir]

Gulzar says it would be very tough for the outsiders to come and settle in Kashmir. Local area people will not let them settle into a groove. In cases where Kashmiri people sell their land to non-Kashmiris, these newcomers find themselves living among hundreds of locals who may not share their enthusiasm for settling in Kashmir. The resistance from local Kashmiri people can make the process exceedingly difficult. Shammi also points out that even Kashmiri Pandits, who are originally from Kashmir, have not returned, raising doubts about the acceptance of outsiders in the region.

Reporter- Kyun settle nahi ho payenge.?.

Gulzar- Aap to 2-3 log dekh rahe ho jo lalach mein aapko bech dein par 100 logon k beech mein aap kaise rahogey jo iska virodh kartey hain..nahi reh paogey na.

Reporter- Accha wo unko rehney nahi dengey..?

Gulzar- Jab unka virodh hoga aapki taraf to aap kaise reh paogey… jab 100 logon mein se 95 aisey hongey jo aapko accept nahi karengey apney ilakey mein, wo accept nahi karengey out of State k aadmi ko yahan basna, jaisey Kashmiri pandit hai wo yahan k apney log hain unki zameen hai wo aa saktey hai … hum to kehtey unse aap aa jao, par jab wo nahi aa rahe hain to out of the state ka koi aakar kaisey basega yahan par..370 todha. Kanooni to aap kuch bhi le saktey ho..aapkey documents bhi bann saktey hain, masla ye hai, yahan aakar rehney ka…wo bahut Mushkil hai.

[Gulzar believes that outsiders face significant challenges when trying to settle in Kashmir. The local residents may resist their presence, making it tough for them to integrate, he says]

The Government  in 2023 told Parliament that 57 people from outside Kashmir bought land in Kashmir in 2021. In the same year, when Tehelka visited Kashmir to do a reality check, to see whether people from outside are actually able to buy property in Kashmir after the revocation of Article 370. We met Gulzar, who said that no Kashmiri, who care for their identity and future generation will sell his property to outsiders:

After meeting Gulzar in 2021, we spoke to another reality Estate agent, Asif Sheikh from Kashmir in 2023. When asked whether we can buy property in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370, Asif Sheikh replied that he has not seen any registry of outsiders being done in Kashmir. They only publicize in the news, but reality is different. Without holding Kashmir Aadhar card, registry of property is not possible in Kashmir, he avers.

Gulzar Ahmad Bhat

Asif – Samajh nahi aa raha property naam ho rahi hai ya nahi.?.

Reporter – Non-Kashmiri ki registry nahi ho rahi ?

Asif – Maine nahi dekhi hote hue, news mein to ye bolte hain magar papers aane chahiye na haath mein.. Papers to nahi aa rahe.

Reporter- Matlab registry nahi ho rahi hai ?

Asif – Registry ka abhi kuch samajh nahi aa raha, nahi ho rahi hai. Jo usmein main cheezein mangte hain wo to bahar wale ke pass hai nahi.. Kashmiri jo bahar rehta hai agar uske pass aadhar card bahar ka hai to wo nahi le paa raha hai.. Haan being a kashmiri wo nahi le pa raha kyunki uska aadhar card bahar ka hai.. 

Reporter- matlab agar kashmir mein property leni hai to aadhar card hona chahiye kashmir ka ?

Asif- nahi milegi

[When asked about buying property post Article 370 abrogation, Asif Sheikh, also a real estate agent, claimed that he hadn’t seen any outsider registrations in Kashmir. Contrary to news reports, the reality is stark: registering property in Kashmir is challenging without a Kashmir Aadhar card.]

Asif told us that to the best of his knowledge, no outsiders have purchased property in Kashmir. He said that he hasn’t come across any records of outsider property registrations in the region. Asif claimed that having a Jammu and Kashmir Aadhar card is a strict requirement for property transactions in Kashmir.

He also shared a case he knew of some Kashmiris residing in Goa who held Goa’s Aadhar card but were unable to buy property in Kashmir. They were advised to obtain a J&K Aadhar card instead. Asif argued that if even Kashmiris, without a J&K Aadhar card, faced hurdles in property purchases, it raised questions about outsiders without a Kashmir Aadhar card doing the same. He noted that a petition against the abrogation of Article 370 is pending in the Supreme Court.

Reporter- Lekin Aadhar card poore India mein valid hai kahin bhi kharid sakte hain.. ?

Asif-  Janab sirf kashmiri hi kharid paate hain na.. Mere pass 3 kashmiri aaye hain maine bola pehle aadhar card banwao.. uske baad.. 

Reporter- Accha jo kashmiri hai usko mil jayegi, uski registry ho jayegi.?

Asif- Main ye bol raha hoon usko kashmiri hokar nahi mil rahi.. yaar samajh nahi rahe ho baat.. Client hai ek mera wo Goa mein rehta hai 3 saal se. Kashmiri hai wo, uska adhar card Goa ka hai, uski registry hi nahi ho rahi. 

Reporter- Lekin mein ye pooch raha hoon agar Kashmiri aadhar card ho, to registry ho jayegi.. 

Asif- Us aadhar par to ho jaani chahiye. 

Reporter- ji

Asif – Haan- haan 

Reporter- Abhi koi non-Kashmiri ki registry nahi hui hai aapke hisab se.?

Asif – Hamare hisab se to nahi hui hai hamne poocha bhi tha bahut logon se kyunki iska to kuch case chal hi raha hai na.. Supreme Court kuch order dega.. Abhi nahi hue wo order. 

Asif stated that as far as he knows, outsiders haven’t bought property in Kashmir, stressing the necessity of a Jammu and Kashmir Aadhar card for property transactions. He highlighted a case of Kashmiris in Goa facing similar challenges and mentioned the pending Article 370 petition in the Supreme Court.]

Asif mentioned that the Supreme Court is currently reviewing several Article 370 petitions, and the outcome regarding outsiders purchasing property in Kashmir will depend on those rulings. He also pointed out that investing Rs 4 crore in Kashmir property without proper registration involved a lot of risk, and could result in significant amount of money going down the drain.

Reporter- Haan 370 ki sunwai to abhi chal rahi hai kashmir ki.. 

Asif- Haan to wo to abhi chal hi raha hai na, dekho wo papers sab lagu hote hain, registry tab hoti hai jab wo case totally band ho jayega, case to abhi chal hi raha hai na. 

Reporter- 370 hatne ka kuch fayda nahi hua non-Kashmiri ko.. nahi kharid sakta kashmir mein property. ?

Asif- Filhaal to nahi, wo news mein bolta hai kharidega magar baat hai na, on a broader level, mein bhi bol raha hoon haridunga mein magar paise to meri jeb se nikal rahe hain na.. Govt ki jeb se thodi nikal rahe hain.. Aur jab paise meri jeb se nikal rahe hain to paper mujhe milne chahiye na.. Wahan jab paper ki baat hai to har aadmi ye bolta hai hame nahi pata, ismein to banda phas hi jayega.. Jo 4 crore lekar aayega ya 10cr invest karega wo to phas hi jayega na.. 

[Asif said that court decision on Article 370 petitions in the Supreme Court will determine whether outsiders would be able to buy property in Kashmir or not. Investing a big sums of money without proper registration entailed a lot of risk, he cautioned.]

Now, Asif stressed that the willingness of Kashmiris to sell land to outsiders varies from person to person. He pointed out that if the government hasn’t managed to sell land to major industries, it’s unlikely that Kashmiris would easily part with their property to non-Kashmiris.

Reporter- Waise agar ye sab normalise ho jata hai to Kashmiri bech dega zameen non-Kashmiri ko ya nahi ?

Asif- Aise to nahi bechega.. Allah behtar jane kyunki you don’t know the future but aise to nahi bechega.. 

Reporter- Koi Kashmiri, non Kashmiri ko zameen nahi bechega. ?

Asif- Aise to nahi bechega.. Haan jahan abhi tak govt nahi bech payi hai to Kashmiri kahan bechega… Govt abhi industry ko nahi bech paya hai.. Suna aapne abhi tak kuch hua badi industry ko becha, nahi hua .. Wo to govt k pass hai wo to Kashmiri k pass nahi hai.. Abhi kuch samjh nahi aa raha kya kiya inhone kya nahi kiya.Normally to koi Kashmiri non-Kashmiri ko zameen nahi bechega, magar that depends person to person.. 

Reporter- Samajh gaya mein aapki baat Asif Saheb.

[Asif stressed that Kashmiris have varying attitudes towards selling land to outsiders, and he noted the government’s difficulty in selling land to major industries as evidence that Kashmiris are unlikely to readily sell their property to non-Kashmiris.]

Asif, a Kashmiri real estate agent, refrained from offering us any properties in the region following the Article 370 abrogation. He asserted that to his knowledge outsiders have not made any property purchases in Kashmir post the Article 370 revocation. Asif emphasized the necessity of possessing a Jammu and Kashmir Aadhar card for property transactions in the area and held a strong belief that no Kashmiri would willingly sell their property to non-Kashmiris, regardless of the circumstances.

Following our conversation with Asif, we engaged with Azhar Ibrahim, a Kashmiri MBBS doctor. We presented a hypothetical scenario, expressing our interest in purchasing property in Kashmir post Article 370 abrogation and seeking his assistance. In response, Azhar Ibrahim firmly stated, “Kashmiris will not sell their property to outsiders.”

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Azhar Ibrahim

Reporter- Accha ye batao Kashmir mein koi zameen mil jayegi ?

Azhar- Bahar walon ko to nahi bechenge.. Nahi bechte.. 

Reporter- Non-Kashmiri ko.. ?

Azhar- Nahi – nahi mushkil hai.. 

Reporter- Nahi ab to 370 hat gaya hai na ab to koi non-Kashmiri bhi Kashmir mein zameen kharid sakta hai na..? 

Azhar-Ab koi bechna hi nahi chahega to usko kya bologey.. Wo masla hai.. 

Reporter- Dena kyun nahi chahega wajah kya hai uski. ?

Azhar- Kashmiri Kashmiri ko hi deta hai shuru se, trust issues hote hain, 

Reporter- Matlab non-Kashmiri par trust nahi hai.. ?

Azhar- Bahut sare nahi karte.Wo prefer karte hai apne side k logon ko. 

[When asked why Kashmiris will not sell their property to outsiders, Azhar said that there is a trust issue. According to him, Kashmiris are more comfortable dealing with Kashmiris than those from outside the state)

Azhar said he has no idea whether any outsider has purchased any property in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370. However, he offered to inquire on our behalf about the possibility of acquiring property in the Kashmir valley.

Reporter- Abhi tak 370 hatne k baad kisi ne non-Kashmiri ne zameen li hai Kashmir mein.?

Azhar- Koi idea nahi hai. 

Reporter- Mujhe dilwa do zameen.? 

Azhar- Poochna padega kisi se aise to idea nahi hai.. 

Reporter- Kis se poochogey ?

Azhar- Kisi se bolunga wo aagey poochega. 

Reporter- Bol dena Muslim hai, aur non-Kashmiri hai..

Azhar- Theek hai.

[Azhar, while claiming to be unaware of outsiders buying property post Article 370, offered to inquire about our Kashmir property request.]

After Azhar, we spoke to Ghulam Mustafa, also a resident of Kashmir valley. Ghulam Mustafa is an activist and also a retired government servant. Ghulam also echoed the sentiments expressed by the others when we gave a fictitious deal that we wanted to buy a property in Kashmir valley. Ghulam says that the government’s decision of abrogating Article 370 has hurt the sentiments of  Kashmiri people. They still have not accepted this decision and are in anger. So whoever decides to sell his property in Kashmir to non-Kashmiris, would do so clandestinely, in order to avoid potential social boycott from other Kashmiris.

Furthermore, he points out that, to the best of his knowledge, he hasn’t encountered any case of Kashmiri selling property to outsiders, at least not within his own locality. He explains that, following the abrogation of Article 370, non-Kashmiris indeed are legally permitted to purchase property in Kashmir. Additionally, Kashmiris who receive more favorable offers for their property from outsiders are also free to sell to them. However, those who make such sales are likely to face social ostracism from fellow Kashmiris.

Ghulam Mustafa

So, amid the controversy over the removal of restrictions on property purchase by non-domiciled Indian citizens in the Kashmir Valley following the abrogation of Article 370, we spoke to a cross-section of the population to get a reality check. We interacted with various people about buying a property in the Kashmir valley in order to gauge whether people in Kashmir are willing to sell their property to the “outsiders.” All the people we spoke to asserted that Kashmiris will not sell their property to the outsiders. One even went on to say that whoever will sell his  property to the outsiders, will face a social boycott locally, and outsiders will also be not allowed to settle in Kashmir.