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Land-lease for Indians allowed: Kashmir CM

Gulmarg, February 19, 2008:

Minister Chief Minister of Indian administered Kashmir Ghulam Nabi Azad Monday said that land in the region could be leased out to Indian citizens.

Kashmir enjoys a special privilege Article 370 of the Indian constitution, according to which, non- state citizens cannot acquire immovable properties in the region.

Indian citizens cannot acquire the citizenship of Jammu and Kashmir.

After the inaugural function of the 5th Indian Winter Games held here at the world famous skiing and tourist resort of Gulmarg, Azad told media persons that leasing out of land to the non-state subjects in tourist resorts including Gulmarg does not mean putting the state on sale.

Azad said that the region's government does not have any plan to provide land in Gulmarg to outsiders.

"Leasing out land does not mean that we are selling it," he said.

Last week Kashmir's Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Husain Baig had said in New Delhi that there was a provision according to which non-Kashmiris could acquire land on lease in the conflict-ravaged region.

However after coming under fire in Kashmir for making this statement, Baig was quick to say that the media had misquoted him and added that land in Kashmir should be given on lease only to Kashmiris.

The issue of acquiring properties by outsiders in Kashmir is a sensitive issue with voices for self determination dominating the region.

Around 60,000 people have died in the region since an anti-India armed Insurgency broke out in 1989.

Pro-Indian Kashmir politicians ruling the region often make contradictory statements in New Delhi and Kashmir.

At New Delhi their statements are in tune with the policies of the Indian government while back in the region they try to cater to the separatist aspirations of the people. The chief minister said: "We need outside investment for the development. We are not selling the land and giving ownership rights to outsiders but leasing it for development of infrastructure."

A plan to lease out 550 kanals of land to outsider investors in Gulmarg in 2006 met stiff opposition in the state.

The state cabinet which had approved the proposal had to put it on hold after stiff opposition from mainstream as well as separatist groups in Kashmir.



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