Home Impact

The Probe Impact: Kashmir farmer gets over two crore compensation after our report

A month ago, farmer Gulzar Ahmad Akhoon told us that he would attempt suicide if he was not paid compensation for his land that was “forcibly acquired by the government”. After The Probe’s report and follow-ups, Gulzar finally received his compensation. But many more farmers are waiting in line for their dues—an impact story by Raja Muzaffar Bhat.

By Raja Muzaffar Bhat
New Update

publive-image Farmer Gulzar Ahmad Akhoon | Photo courtesy: Raja Muzaffar Bhat

“I would like to thank the district administration, the judge, the collector and The Probe for reporting my story and helping me get back my money. Once again, I would like to thank The Probe and Raja Muzaffar for showing me the way. You (The Probe) are the voice of the poor people. I got my money because you published my story. May god bless you all. You are the voice of Kashmir,” said an elated Gulzar Ahmad Akhoon.

The Probe’s Raja Muzaffar Bhat talks to farmer Gulzar Ahmad Akhoon | Photo courtesy: Raja Muzaffar Bhat

After our relentless reporting and follow-up of this case, Gulzar received compensation of over two crore rupees from the Jammu and Kashmir government. In August, a desperate Gulzar told The Probe that he had no other option but to commit suicide if the government continued its indifference.

He said: “I sold my house for Rs 56 lakhs to purchase this piece of land. I gave Rs 56 lakhs as advance payment and have to pay another Rs 84 lakhs by August 20, 2022. I lost my four kanals of land. I was also forced to take back my case from the high court and pressured to accept the money given to me under the old rules. I did agree out of helplessness, but now I am being told that the treasury has been dry since May. Where has the money gone? I am accepting meagre compensation, which is three to four times less than the market rate of my land, and now they are not even giving me that. I am frustrated, and if this continues, we farmers have no other option but to commit suicide.”

After a long and arduous struggle, 52-year-old Gulzar, a resident of Wathoora village in Budgam district, finally received a compensation of two crore five lakh rupees (2.05 crores) from the Kashmir administration for his four kanal 12 marlas of land (0.625 Acres). 

In an interview to The Probe in August, Gulzar had rued that the government had acquired his land in which he was cultivating paddy and mustard, which was his only source of income. The government took over Gulzar’s land for the Srinagar Semi Ring Road project, which passes through districts Pulwama, Budgam, Srinagar and Ganderbal. 

As per section 11-B of the J&K Land Acquisition Act, 1934 (samvat 1990) (now repealed), the awards (payment of compensation) are to be made within two years from the issuance of section 6 notification (declaration). This provision was present in the erstwhile Land Acquisition of 1894, and the LARR Act, 2013 also has a similar condition. Around July 2019, Gulzar was supposed to get the compensation, but he and many other farmers were denied compensation for an extended period.

Despite moving from pillar to post, when Gulzar did not get compensation, he approached The Probe with his land record papers. On August 11, 2022, Gulzar’s story was published on The Probe. In our story, we highlighted how after the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, several central acts were still not being extended to Jammu and Kashmir, and the farmers were not getting paid as per the central regulations. More than 800 central laws have been made applicable in Jammu and Kashmir after the special status of J&K was revoked, but the J&K administration is yet to invoke the central rules in many cases. The Probe also took Gulzar’s case to the collector and the other authorities for a response and in an interview to The Probe, the collector assured that he would ensure compensation would be paid to farmers under the Central Act. 

Speaking to The Probe, Gulzar says that though he has received compensation for his land, nearly 60 families in his village are yet to receive compensation. “I am very thankful to The Probe that you took up my case and helped me get my compensation, but there are around 50 to 60 families of farmers just like me. They, too, have lost their lands. Their lands were also forcibly acquired by the government, but they have not been paid any compensation. Only two or three farmers have received the money so far.”

Gulzar now says that he would use the compensation amount to pay off the money he owes to others and use the remaining amount to buy a new piece of land where he would grow paddy and mustard. 

Petitions before J&K High Court

Two years ago, Gulzar and over two dozen farmers from Wathoora village in Budgam petitioned J&K High Court for compensation for their lands under the national land acquisition act - The Right to Fair Compensation in Land Acquisition Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act (LARR Act 2013). This law has been applicable in J&K since 2019 after the abrogation of Article 370, but the farmers have alleged that the central laws on land acquisition compensation have not been enforced on the ground in J&K. 

In the case of Wathoora village, the awards for land compensation were to be made by or before August 8, 2019, but this wasn’t done by the land acquisition collector of Budgam. The awards were prepared after a lapse of three years, and the same was challenged before the High Court of J&K by the residents of Wathoora. 

In the case of Abdul Salam Bhat vs the government of Jammu and Kashmir, in an interim order dated November 9, 2020, the High Court stated: “The proprietary land of the petitioners has not been passed, and if the petitioners are still in possession of their proprietary land, their position shall not be disturbed otherwise than in due course of law.” But the administration allegedly violated the interim order early this year in March when the government took possession of the petitioners’ land in Wathoora. 

After the interim orders, the division bench of Chief Justice Pankaj Mithal and Justice Puneet Gupta at the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh issued a detailed order in the case on September 7, 2022. 

The concluding paragraph of the order reads: “The writ in the nature of mandamus is issued declaring that land acquisition proceedings pursuant to the notification dated 20.03.2017 issued under Section 4 of the Act stands lapsed under Section 11-B of the Act for want of making an award within a period of two years from the date of declaration. The Writ Petition is accordingly allowed”. This essentially means that the notification under the old Act has lapsed, and the new Act is in force. Many aggrieved farmers hope to get more compensation for their lands under the new central Act.