Constituent Assembly Debates

Land to Tillers: Before Constituent Assembly, the question of compensation to big landlords

A group photograph of the Members of the Constituent Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir

The Jammu and Kashmir Government under Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah carried out radical land reforms in 1950 through the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act, popularly called as ‘land to tillers’ law.

The Big Landed Estates Abolition Act of 1950 placed a ceiling on land ownership at 186 kanals and the rest of the land of a landlord was redistributed among share-croppers and landless labourers, without any compensation to the landlord. The transfer of land without compensation, however, triggered debate and it was decided to leave this issue to the Constituent Assembly.

When the Constituent Assembly was convened on October 31, 1951, the first week’s business included election of the President of the House, formulation of business rules and other ancillary affairs.

On November 6, 1951, the Constituent Assembly took up the matter of compensation to the landlords. Revenue Minister, Mirza Afzal Beg moved the resolution for “Appointment of a Committee to examine the desirability or otherwise of the payment of compensation for lands expropriate under “Big Land Estates Abolition Act”.

The land reforms under “Big Landed Estates Abolition Act” was put to motion in 1950 but the question of compensation to the landlords against the expropriated lands was left to the Constituent Assembly.

Revenue Mirza Afzal Beg moved the resolution stating the following:  “Whereas it has been provided in section 26 of the Big landed Estate Abolition Act, 2007, that the question of compensation with respect to the Land from which expropriation has taken place under the said Act, shall be settled by the Constituent Assembly of the State. This Assembly resolves that a Committee consisting of the mover as the Chairman and ten other named Maulana Mohammad Sayeed Masoodi, Pandit Janki Nath Kakroo, Syed Mir Qasim, Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Wazir Ram Saran Dass, Sagra Singh, Chela Singh, Mahasha Nahar Singh, Ghulam Rasool Kar and Krishan Dev Sethi be appointed to examine the desirability or otherwise of the payment of compensation for lands expropriated under the provisions of the said Act”.

The resolution further said that the committee may consult the views of various interests and section of the public during the course of its deliberation; that the chairman may delegate his functions to any other member of the committee in his absence; that the committee may co-opt any person as an expert to render such assistance in its work as may be required; that the committee shall submit its report to the president of the Assembly within three months for this date -November 6, 1951.

After moving the resolution, Revenue Minister Mirza Afzal Beg made a long speech on the spirit behind the land reforms. He was occasionally interrupted by the members who alleged that the Revenue Minister was making his opinion known even as the Committee was tasked to come up with the report within three months.

Below is the full transcript of Mirza Afzal Beg’s speech in the Constituent Assembly. Interventions by the members are also reproduced in the same order:

I have in my motion requested the House to constitute a committee which will submit its report about payment of compensation or other wise to the landlords with respect to the land from which expropriation has taken place under the big landed estates abolition Act, and the ownership where of has been granted to the tillers. The Hon’ble members of the house already know that the agrarian policy of National Conference is given in our Programme “New Kashmir” wherein we had already declared eight years ago that the real owner of land was the actual tiller of the soil Keeping this principle in view the first and foremost Problem of our State is to solve the agrarian question.

Our Quaid-i-Azam had declared last year on Martyr’s Day that all those persons who own land in excess of 182 kanals would forego their ownership in respect of such lands from the date of enforcement of the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act. And after abolition of previous rights of ownership the person who was its actual tiller from kharif S.2007, would become the owner of land. After the deceleration of this policy, the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act was enforced and under its lacks of kanals of land have been transferred to the tenants as stated by the Qauid-i-Azam in this house yesterday. After the enactment of this law the issue which has been raised by the owners of the land is that they may be compensated for the ownership of which have been deprived. Under declared policy of the National Conference no such landlord is entitled to any compensation but you have provided in section 26 of Big Landed Estates Abolition Act that the question as to whether the previous owners of the land are

entitled to any compensation or not would be placed before the constituent Assembly when it is covered in the State. Until the constituent Assembly decided the question of compensation the landlords affected by the Act would be paid as an annuity for the first year after expropriations an amount equal to ¾ 4th of the land revenue, for the second year 2/3rd of such land revenue; but the proportion of this compensation or allowance would not exceed Rs. 3,000. According to decision of the National Conference the Constituent Assembly was held after one year of the enforcement of the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act and today this question is being moved before this House as to whether or not the Jagirdars or Chackdars who held land in excess of 182 kanals will be paid any compensation, for their expropriated land. As has been said by the Quaid-i-Azam in the speech yesterday that this House has to decide whether such landlords should be paid any compensation. In the right of these events we may have to go through the past history which will reveal the circumstance and principles under which these landlords had achieved the ownership of these big lands. After studying that we will have to decide whether they have any right to compensation or not keeping in view the present conditions.

The fact is that in the past times people considered God as the sole owner of the land and the history bears witness, to this fact. In view of this Divine theory the rulers who were held as images of God came to be considered as owners of the land. This principle was accepted during the Hindu, the Muslim and the Sikh period. But in the beginning of the Hindu rules the proprietary right of the lands were vested in the joint family and their was no appreciable change during the Muslim period excepting that some protective measure were adopted for realizing revenue to a certain extent so that a part of the produce may be realized by the State. During the Sikh period the same case of people who realized revenue during Muslim period continued to do so this class consists of such people who had rendered either Military or some meritorious service to the Government of the time. These were people who were kept incharge of the work of realizing produce of land from the peasant with result that the tiller who used to toil on the land came under the influence of this class also realized the share of class. The intermediary government and the same practice was followed throughout these different regimes namely that the ownership of land was not considered to vest in the tiller but the State and thus the State was considered the real owner of the land. The man toiling on the land did not enjoy such privileges as where enjoyed by the non-tiller. The tiller was deprived of proprietary rights as also of the right of purchase sale or mortgage of land on which he labored in Hindu, Muslim and Sikh periods the tiller of the soil was under an iron group of the rulers after these regimes the Dogra rule came into being under the patronage of British with the result that new conditions prevailed and anew system of purchase and sale of land was introduced.

The Dogra rulers who held the reigns of the Government of the State by the heap of the British assumed their power through a sale deed. They held according to this sale deed purchased against cash payments all land forests rivers and flora and fauna. They had in fact purchased the whole nation and the country at too cheep price. This also adversely affects the agricultural System of the State. This class consisted of such influential people as had fought for the Government during the wars or who by securing the goodwill of the Government become the recipients of this reward. Notwithstanding these concessions the Government gave away villages and ‘parganue’ to this class by way of royal favours. In the earth period of history the peasant was considered the only owners of land. But after this class of royal favours it was thrust upon them who thus came into possession of lakhs of kanals of land. The British Government also came to their help. The alien Government probably wanted to create such an atmosphere would strengthen the foundation of their Government. The history also bears testimony to the fact as to how the favourite class became the owner of lakhs of kanals of land without paying the penny for the same.

The tale of Jammu is that lakhs of kanals of land were given away to such people on ‘pats’ and ‘patas’. But the treaty of Amritsar was the noose round the neck of Kashmir. The land of this country came into the possession of such persons who were quite ignorant of peasantry and agriculture systems. Such class of people who thus came into existence demand now compensation in order to nullify the effect of the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act. This class in the past had, by snatching away the rights of peasants, acquired land. The wealthy and influential class, after creating misery for the tiller trampled upon his rights for a considerable time. Though this class was not toiling on the land personally still though the favours of the rulers their names adorned the revenue paper.

This big class now, claims compensation and this question will have to be decided by you and the House collectively. With the passage of time various proclamations from the rulers in the form of Raj Tilak Boon, Pratap Code and similar other Aians were announced from time to time. These proclamation were either to denote the ruler’s sweet will or were issued one some alms-giving occasion. These rules used to distribute the cultivable lands amongst their favorites i.e., this system of granting gifts in the shape of land was limited to only kinsmen and favourites with the result that a new class sprang up after snatching land from the toiling peasantry. This refers to the time when Sir W.Lawrence introduces the system of land Settlement in the State. Those Hon’ble Members who hail from villages have enough knowledge regarding Aien No. 5 Pratap Code and Raj Tilak Boon. Whatever be the name of these royal proclamations, it is a fact that these have been the cause of degradation and backwardness of the State. The blood of these people who keep the country alive and serve as a backbone to the country has been sucked through these proclamations and a class of favourites was given all the benefits to enjoy. Not only land was granted to these favourites but the most precious wealth which God has bestowed upon us in the shape of forests was also given away in proprietary right to such people through it originally belonged to the country and the whole nation.

In Jammu dozens of Rakhs were given away to such persons whose names I do not want to disclose. In most of the Tehsils of Kashmir such as Budgam, Sopore, Kulgam, and Baramulla lakhs of kanals of land have been transferred in ownership right to this favourite class. You will not find the example in the history. The other class consists of such people who have acquired land according to rule No. 4,5 and 6 are on the basis of patas and partas. Now this class also demands compensation. The House has also to see how far these people were justified to have ownership right on such lands. While deciding this you have also to keep in view the benefit derived by these landlords during all these years and today when we are transferring such lands back to the peasants you have seen how far they are justified in demanding compensation. The final decision is to be taken by you.

Maharaja Hari Singh, on ascending the gadi in 1924-25 issued a royal proclamation called by Raj Tilak Boon. On these basis of this declaration which we name as royal favour the Maharaja permitted the landlords to annex village common lands (Shamilat) with their holdings and these Shamilat (village common lands) came into the possession of landlords to the extent of cultivated land they already possessed i.e. that the land holder who had one thousand kanals of land got further one thousand kanals of land grant of the basic of this Raj Tilak Boon and those had two thousand kanals of land got two thousand kanals of Shamilat land and those who where in possession of 2 kanals got only two of Shamilat land, which means:-  “Whom something is given once is continued to be given indefinitely”

And who was already deprived of any land was precluded from being benefited by the distribution of common lands. Deceit and fraud also took place while these orders where operated upon so much so that the land of such poor man who had only 10 to 15 kanals of land was grabbed by the influential elements and annexed with their lands with the result that the pity landholder lost practically everything. In Kashmir 1.60,000 acres of land, 3,10,000 acres of land in Jammu where given away under Raj Tilak Boon, and if we calculate the area of this land in kanals it comes fourty lakhs of kanals of land. The third class consists of such people who possess land in excess of 182 kanals and who have taken forty lakhs kanals of land under the patronage of royal favours now under the Big Landed Estates Abolition Act the property rights of such people have been liquidated these people now demand compensation for the expropriated lands. There is another class, which Maharaja Hari Singh brought into existence through a new device, which he introduced during his regime. According to this a Jagirdar who surrender his cash jagir was to receive twice and four times equivalent land in Jammu and Kashmir respectively that is a Jagirdar who will be in a possession of two thousand kanals of land will get four thousand kanals of land in Jammu and Eight thousand kanals of land in Kashmir. Thus a temptation for the occupation of lands in Kashmir was thrown and they where also told that they could also search most fertile lands in lieu of their cash jagirdar and that their revenue would be fixed accordingly to Purls Dh. Thus lakhs of kanals of land came into the possession of such people. Not that made barren lands cultivable or forests or brought uncultivable lands under the plough but they took the possession of such land into their hands which had already been made cultivable by the sweet and blood of your fore-fathers who were holding the possession of such lands from times immemorial. In brief these Chakdars and jagirdars were forcibly thrust over the heads of these kisans as owners of land. The fourth class now consists of such people who own land in excess of 182 kanals for which they demand compensation. Now you will please consider what historical, moral, and legal justification has these people in demanding compensation.

You, Sir, would now decide the question as to who for these people are justified in demanding compensation. it will be recalled that Maharaja Gulab Singh had purchased this State for 75 lakhs of Rupees but he had no enough of money in hand at that time so he was in search of a money-lender. it is said that he found a money lender whose name was Dewan Jawalla Sahai who gave money to Maharaja Gulab Singh and the timely help of the money-lender resulted in an agreement between Maharaja Gulab Singh and the Dewan by which it was decided that the premiership of the State would be vested in the family of the Dewan for generations to come and more over the State revenue could be distributed between the Dewan and the Maharaja in the ratio of -/2/- and -/14/- respectively.

After some time, the Maharaja thought that he has made the Dewan his partner in the State revenue for nothing so it would be better to oust him from the Government and with this object in view he persuaded him to select lands permanently for himself in the province of Kashmir and Jammu instead of receiving a share of -/2/- per rupee of land revenue. So the Dewan transferred to his own name the lands in various Tehsils of the State such as Islamabad, Kulgam, Awantipora, Samba, Ranbirsingh-pura etc. Today, a widow of this family owns 1,20,000 kanals of land and we have given her under this Act only 182 kanals of land. She demands compensation for such land which has now been given to the tillers.

Similarly, there was Raja of Chenani who owned 3,10,000 kanals of land. It is said that this land was granted to him at the time of conquests and victories with the result that his name still adorns the revenue papers. It is a fact that when any country is conquered, the conqueror becomes the owner of that land; but Settlement Officers have pointed out that Raja of Chenani held too much of land in ownership right and he appropriated the lands of other people by various methods and the Raja Sahib also demands compensation for such land which has now been transferred to the tillers under the Act. This House has now to decide as to what compensation be given to the Raja Sahib and on what basis.

In the Hindu period the lands were granted to a chosen few from the time of their ancestors and those who cultivated lands by the sweet of their brow had to remain as serfs. Today history has taken a new turn and under the leadership of Sher-i- Kashmir, fifteen lakh of peasants raise their suppressed heads with pride in order to regain the right snatched from them six hundred years back. (Cheers)

The Chakdar and the Jagidar have sucked the blood of the peasants for the last six hundred years and their bodies have been reduced to a skeleton. The hunger of the greedy Jagirdar remains unsatiated. He still cherishes the desire of chewing the bones of this downtrodden tiller of the soil. You have to see whether such people be given any compensation.

The other question is that from whom should such compensation be realized. The position of the Jagirdar is already known to you. Till the time of Quaid-i- Azam’s declaration of granting land to the tiller the peasant of Tehsil Kulgam could not get even a yard of land for burying their dead because the ownership right of all that land vested in the Dewan. An innocent child of a poor peasant was held guilty of lifting from ground the rotten fruit, which had fallen from a tree. This condition of the kisans and peasants prevailed from centuries. These kisans had neither food for their stomachs’ nor cloths for wrapping their naked bodies. They were not able to have food for a month even after toiling for full twelve months. The condition of Harijans was still worse. There existed such a barbarous system that even the entry of the name of the Harijans in the revenue papers was considered a sin (Shame). These people were kept not only as serfs but were put into worst condition than that should we now demand compensation from such people?

Bhagat Ram Sharma:  Sir, the motion before the house is that a committee should be set up to decide the question of compensation. The Hon’ble mover happens to be the chairman of the committee. He has expressed his opinion beforehand. It is given in the resolution that the Committee has to submit its opinion in the form of a report before the House within three months time. So my request is that the expression of opinion at this stage is not necessary. It should be kept in view.

Mirza Afzal Beg: Sir, so far as I have understood, does the Hon’ble Member mean to say that three months time is not sufficient?

G.M. Sadiq, the President: The objection of the Hon’ble Member is that you have expressed opinion beforehand in this behalf.

Mirza Afzal Beg: I beg your pardon sir, I have only related the chapters of history. I have not given my opinion. The House has to decide the question.

Mubrak Shah: Sir, it is not yet known whether the Hon’ble mover will be acceptable to the House as Chairman of the Committee.

G.M. Sadiq, the President: The objection raised by the Hon’ble Members is not in order. The Hon’ble mover has only stated the facts on the basis of which he wants to setup a Committee. He has only related some historical events and so far as I understand, he has not expressed his opinion.

Mirza Afzal Beg: Sir, I was perhaps narrating the story of those people who acquired land by various methods and was telling you how the entry of the names of the Harijans in revenue papers was considered a sin. Now lakhs of peasants consisting of Harijans as well have become the owners of land by the help of National Conference and have been entered in the revenue papers. The question is now asked whether these Jagirdars should be paid compensation or not for this change of entry in the records in Kashmir. We have not yet forgotten those events as to how the representatives of Jagirdars used to encircle the produce of the tillers during autumn season in order to distribute the gathered produce between the nominal owner and his agent with the result that these agents did not leave any grain for the peasants. Thus a great injustice was meted out to these toiling people. Now the real owner of land wants to get the fruits of his labour. The nominal owner has derived enough benefit from these lands and now he demands compensation on the plea that his ownership of land has now been transferred to the poor Kisan, so the Kisan should now pay the compensation to the nominal owner for the ex-appropriation of land.

The Settlement reports and the opinion of Settlement Officers reveal the fact that the rules of the country have granted every possible concessions to the influential persons and the favourite class were given every opportunity to enjoy such privileges, for instance in the Settlement reports Mirpur and Reasi the Settlement Officer have strongly observed that a favourite class has been granted Jagirs after Jagirs. Another Settlement Officer has been marked that influential people have been granted jagirs upon jagirs to which they were not entitled. Such is the opinion of Settlement Officer. We have seen to how far the grant of compensation demanded by these big Chakdars and Jagirdars is justified. Before and after1991when the Land Revenue Act was in force there were people who purchased lands or acquired it on mortgage by spending money. The members of the House have to see which out of this class of people deserve compensation. This is a separate question that Chakdars and owners have been allowed to hold lands up to 182 kanals.

We have also to see such owners who have purchased land more than this during last 20 years. The point at issue is whether such people deserve our attention or not and that how long these lands were in their possession and how much capital have been invested on such lands and how much benefit has been derived from such lands. If the House decides, after adopting my motion, to give compensation to such owners, the Committee has to see wherefrom the compensation will come and to what extent it will affect the tiller. I have just now told you the condition of the peasant who has no clothes to shield his body and who carves for a morsel of fool. Economically he is so backward that he could hardly be called a human being.

The National Conference and Quaid-i- Azam have raised him to the level of humanity after centuries of servitude. And he has been raised him to the level of a man only in the course of last twelve months. I am pained that the voice of Sher-i-Kashmir will not reach enemy held areas of Mirpur, Poonch and Muzaffarabad so that peasants of these areas be also benefited but I assure you, Sir, that Quiad-i-Azam Sher-i-Kashmir bears the same sympathy and love towards the peasants of enemy occupied areas who live across the cease-fire line which he has for the peasant of the side of cease-fire-line (Cheers).

Our opponents have not only bowed down before Sher-i-Kashmir but also before the outside World, British and America from where it emanated that Sheri-Kashmir has faced this problem with a little resistance and this has set an example for other countries like India and outside World to follow where this problem has proved complicated, (Cheers).

Our opponents, have not only bowed down before Sher-i-Kashmir but also before the outside world, Britain and America from where it emanated that Sheri-Kashmir has faced this problem with a little resistance and this has set an example for other countries like India and out side world to follow where this problem has proved complicated, …….( Cheers )

Sir, I want to point out that this Government has solved this problem with such ability, courage and valour that Shree Nehru has also been pleased to remark that thirty five crores inhabitants of India envy the approach of Sher-i-Kashmir to this complicated problem (Cheers). So the credit goes to Sher-i-Kashmir and the national Conference for such enviable decision and proud results. These golden achievements demand that it should decide the compensation with similar wisdom and sympathy, protecting the oppressed. With these unambiguous words I request the House that it should agree to setup a Committee which will submit its report after due consideration suggesting a decision of the question of payment of compensation or otherwise to the landlord in the same way in which you have solved the basic issues. I am grateful to you, sir, and to the House who have given me patient hearing and I now commend my motion to the House.

Sardar Harbans Singh Azad: Sir, I would like to state some facts while seconding the motion. The world is going ahead rapidly for the last few years, particularly in respect of the food problem, which faces the word at present. I understand that the production of such countries where the peasants has been made the owner of land has increased from which it can be inferred that for increasing the produce of land the peasant should be made the owner of land. The countries where peasant proprietorship is in vogue have made rapid progress.

G.M. Sadiq, the President: I may inform the Hon’ble Member that the motion before the House relates to the setting up of a Committee to decide the question of payment of compensation to landlords and jagirdars and not the peasants should be made owners of land or land should be distribute among them.

Sardar Harbans Singh Azad: Sir, I am coming to this issue. In my opinion the National Conference is committed to the distribution of lands among peasants without payments of any compensation. The fact is that the landlords were granted lands on the plea that they had supported the ruling family. But the next generation arises whether people who have acquired land by spending money should be paid any compensation. So far as jagirdars and Chakdars are concerned they have derived ample benefit from such land. There are also people who acquired land through bribery about which I could quote example but I will refrain from doing so. A few high officials have purchased enough of land and I am surprised to know the source wherefrom they got so much money.

Some Tehsildars and other officials of the Government possess so much land that we are surprised how they managed to procure such big amounts to go in for such big areas of land. It is clear that these people must have sucked the blood of people and purchased their land with their money. Their sins are of much more heinous nature than that of the chakdars-Jagirdars and moneylenders. There are various money lenders and ‘wad-dars’ who have purchased thousands of kanals of land we are being pressed by various quarters for granting compensation to such people in the plea that they have purchased land by spending money. In this connection you have also to keep in view the background in regard to means resorted to by these people to get huge amounts. This is an important issue. Certain cases may be deserving of sympathetic consideration. The Compensation Committee has to examine this fact seriously and has to solve this problem by keeping in view the betterment of masses.


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