The Government of Jammu and Kashmir headed by Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah as Prime Minister carried out land reforms in 1950 through Big Landed Estates Abolition Act. The ‘land to tillers’ triggered the question of compensation to the landlords which was not provided in the original Act. This question was left to the Constituent Assembly to decide.
The Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir, in November 1951, framed a Committee under Revenue Minister Mirza Afzal Beg to decide this question. In March 1952, the Mirza Afzal Beg committee presented its report before the Constituent Assembly which was put to debate by the members. Following thorough discussion and speeches by almost all members, the Constituent Assembly approved the Committee’s suggestions that no compensation was to be paid to big landed landlords whose land was expropriate and distributed among the tillers.
Below is full transcript of the speech by Ghulam Qadir Ganderbali, Constituent Assembly member
Ghulam Qadir: Mr. President, the report of the Land Compensation Committee is before you. Let me submit a few words before I support it. Major portion of the population of this country depends on cultivation. The tiller has been target of all inhuman and barbarous treatment right from the period of Gulab Singh down to the present day when our Popular Government made him (the tiller) the real owner of the land. Rulers’ big proprietors and landlords have all so far been living luxurious lives by exploiting the hard earned income of al the cultivators. Today these aggressors’ claims to be civilized powerful or hold a high position in society but in fact they have put in no effort to gain this privilege. The power or influence they have attained is all due to this oppressed tiller. The poor peasant, with his family toils hard on the field, grows crops and provides a chance for the landlord to attain a high position. He, in fact has grabbed the tillers income. The latter remained poor, naked or without food while the former has made himself rich and fat. Qid-Azam. Sheri Kashmir, has after taking all these facts into account, raised the slogan of ‘Land to the Tillers’. This slogan reached each and every corner of our land. This slogan appealed to the poor oppressed and down-trodden peasants, who are in majority in our country. Their deepest feelings were stirred and they felt conscious of the fact that they did not enjoy the status of human beings. In spite of his own and his family’s hard labour on the field throughout the year he is unable to obtain two square meals and an hour of leisure. The peasant realized that the fruit of his labour is being usurped and that moral and human status is being denied to him. They became conscious. By and by liberation movement gained strength. The peasant was inspired. The feudal Government tried to curb them, but they knew how to defend themselves and so they went ahead. If a man works hard, morality does not demand that his outturn should go to somebody else. It is against justice as well. In spite of the best efforts the feudal class their voice gained more and more weight. A demand was submitted to the Qaid-I-Azam that everybody must be allowed to eat what he himself earns. It was a dream for them to think of their children going to schools and wearing cloths. Could they ever afford to feed their children on bread, butter and milk? The age gave birth to the organization of the National Conference, which presented the blue print of New Kashmir in the form of a pamphlet to the nation. It was promised in this pamphlet that land will be owned by him who tills it. The exploiting class did not even dream then that their land will be given to those who work on it and who grow food out of it. The booklet “New Kashmir” is a beacon light for oppressed people of Jammu and Kashmir. It is the illuminating star showing us the way ahead. We are trying to achieve the ideal contained in this booklet with the best of our wishes. We have to change Kashmir into Naya Kashmir. All these events, which at present are taking shape, are due to this very inspiring ideal. Soon after our popular Government took over, the grave issue of “Land to Tiller” came up for consideration before the Government. The class of people which made the liberation movement a success and which overthrew the old autocratic and worn out system was this very class of poor peasants. This class of poor peasants. This class of people produced martyrs who made innumerable sacrifices for the cause of freedom. Under these circumstances it was the moral and legal obligation of the Government to relieve them of inhuman and immoral oppression. Keeping this obligation in view the Government took immediate steps. Mr. President, considering the shortage of time let me submit in short that the Popular Government made them realize the necessity of cooperating with her. If the Government will collect compensation form them and distribute it amongst the big landlords, it will mean that this Government is following the steps of the old autocratic regime. In the last Session of the Assembly the House appointed a committee to report about the desirability or otherwise of the payment of compensation. The committee based its report on statements of the witnesses or on historical facts. Regarding this report Chakdars have raised the objection that as the Kisans had abandoned the land for non-payment of land revenue; they managed to pay it and spent huge sums to make it cultivable. It is true that the Kisans abandoned much land in times of Maharaja Gulab Singh and the Chakdars, after paying revenue thereon, made it cultivable. But these people do not know the reality. In this connection I may submit that the circumstances were quite different. The tillers were put to forced labour (Baigar) in Gilgit, Ladakh, Bonii and Banihal frontiers and 90% of them would not return because they were treated as animals and beasts. There were some who would return after six months but not a single individual was there to look after their homes or fields in their absence. Besides the officials of Majaraja Gulab Singh would rummage and ransack their homes should they only see them in a happy financial condition? They would leave nothing with him. After six months hard labour of a poor peasant would retain a grain himself out of the crop he had himself grown, the savants of Maharaja would search his house. Today I ask those who demand compensation that when these poor peasants were put on Baigar for months together, was any compensation paid for their labour? I would submit that these big landlords who were bestowed with Jagirs by old regime had cleared many jungles (whether belonging to Forest or to Revenue Department). In this way they earned lacs of rupees for themselves and put the nation to loss, will not the Government be justified to demand compensation from them for this loss?
Mr. Mohamad Ayoub Khan: The Hon’ble member is going to unnecessary details.
Ghulam Qadir Ganderbali: Besides, these big landlords gained much wealth from these jungles for example they have tapped the mineral resources which such jungles contained in a unscientific way and destroyed the chances of their future exploitation.
G.M. Sadiq (President):- Hon’ble members should note that although his observations are not irrelevant completely, still he repeats many facts.
Ghulam Qadir Gaderbali:– Alright Sir. With these words I support the report of Committee, which recommends non-payment of compensation to the landlords. Wazir Ram Saran Das wishes that widows, orphans and aged persons should be given some allowance. In this connection we have to see whether such persons have got this land by way of Gift or whether they have paid some money consideration for it. Further, it is to be seen whether 182 kanals of land be left with them so that they should work over it and earn for themselves, or should they be given some allowance instead? Secondly the appointment of the Committee, which is suggested by Hon’ble Mirza Afzal Beg, is very important. The income from the lands of certain religious institutions is utilized in a proper way and while the income from the lands of such other institution is not properly spent. The appointment of the committee is very essential to look into this thing. I request that the committee should present its report at its earliest. With these words I again support the recommendations of the land compensation committee.