Jammu and Kashmir is a predominantly Muslim state in northern India. The state forms part of the Kashmir territory that is claimed by India, Pakistan and India. It enjoys a special autonomy within the Indian Union as granted by Article 370 of the Indian Constitution. This special autonomous status allows the state to have its own flag and constitution.
There’s a notion that outsiders cannot buy land in Jammu and Kashmir because of the restrictions placed by Article 370. Well, that’s not entirely true. The Constitutional provision gives the Indian government mandate over the Jammu and Kashmir’s defense, foreign affairs, communications and ancillary matters. The implication of this provision is that the legislations emanating from the Indian Parliament don’t apply in the area, except laws that touch on the Indian government’s mandate over the state.
Article 370 was introduced in 1947 and came into force in 1950. However, the prohibition against Indians from other parts of the Union to buy land in Jammu and Kashmir goes back to 1846 when the Dogra Muslim community bought the territory from the British. These laws called, State Subject Laws, were adopted to prevent outsiders, including the British, from grabbing land in the area. While speaking in the Lok Sabha in 1963, Nehru lauded this old rule stating that Kashmir can be a target by the wealthy who can buy all the available land at the detriment of the locals. According to him, that is the real reason the law has been in application for more than a century and why it should continue.
It’s clear that the special autonomy enjoyed by Jammu and Kashmir has allowed it to retain the laws from the Dogra king era. There are many calls for the abrogation of these laws. However, the Indian government cannot overrule them because its hands are tied by Article 370. The area has greatly benefited from these prohibitive laws. For instance, the state’s government has been able to carry out land reforms that have made the region’s economy inclusive. Today, only 3 percent of the households in the state live below the poverty line as contrasted to 26 percent in the other parts of India.
Jammu and Kashmir is not the first Indian state that restricts foreigners from buying land. Other regions with similar restrictions include Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Nagaland.