Constituent Assembly Debates

Major Piar Singh on ‘land to tillers’: Constituent Assembly debates

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

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 Major Piar Singh, Member Constituent Assembly

Major Piar Singh: Mr. President several members have given expression to their views regarding the desirability or otherwise of the payment of compensation to the landlords expropriated under the Big Landed Estate’s Abolition Act. The lands which have been transferred to the peasants originally belong tot them. From time to time these lands have been transferred to the influential persons with a view to buttress the despotic regime. Now that the popular Government has stepped into the shoes of autocratic regime, does it seem reasonable to continue the concessions enjoyed by this limited class of people? It always happened in the past that a protest against oppression was immediately stifled. But now-a-days ordinary news spreads like wild fire in no time through out the length and breadth of the world. It is incumbent on the political institutions to try to raise the standard of the living of the masses. If we just compare the number of expropriated landlords with those who have been benefited by the implementation of the Big Landed Estate’s Abolition Act it will be found that the number of the former does hardly exceed 3 to 4 per cent of the total population and number of latter is 90 to 95 per cent. It is necessary for the Government to win over the sympathies of the people. In the past when the imperialist were in the power the assistance of military was sought to suppress the demand of the people. But now-a-days such an action is not in keeping with the democratic principles. Such measures should be adopted to ameliorate the condition of the masses. The Hon’ble members of the Committee had not made any reference in their report the arguments advanced by the Chakdars in support of the compensation. They based their demand for the compensation on certain facts which I would like to submit before you. Once I met a landlord and enquired from him as to when he had acquired vast tracts of land. He said that at the time of settlement in the State these lands wee thrust upon them with the result that many of their relatives who could not cultivate the land and therefore could not afford to pay the land revenue to the Government wee put behind the bars. This policy forced their relatives to leave our State. I was amazed to hear all this. It reminded me of a permanent tenant of a Chakdar of my village. The poor man died issueless. There were some of relatives who could inherit the tenancy rights of this land. But the Chakdar forcibly deprived them of their rights. It so happened that the Chakdar carried away even the timber of the dilapidated house of tenant and took the possession of the land where his land is automatically transferred to the owner of the land. Therefore, the assertion of the Chakdar that the lands were thrust upon them does not hold good. If the people other than land owners wanted some land for building purposes the later always created a host of hindrances. I cannot understand, how, these lands were thrust upon the Chakdars. This is a baseless assertion.

But now the people’s Government is in power and it has pledged itself under the leadership of Sher-i-Kashmir to ameliorate the condition of 40 lac of people. The main industry of our country is agriculture and our first and foremost task is to try for its development. The lion’s share of the earnings of the poor peasants is taken away by the big landlords and this process continues even at present. Therefore, I am of the opinion that under no conditions will it be admissible to demand compensation from the poor peasants whom the proprietary rights were given. Secondly if the compensation is paid to the Chakdars out of the Government treasury it will amount to the same thing as the Government treasury is filled up by the earnings of the poor. Therefore, no compensation be paid to the owners unless approved by the majority. After all the majority is composed of those very people who have already given the largest share of the produce to the owners of the land. These people are now awakened by the freedom movement led by Sher-i-Kashmir. If compensation is demanded from them I think it will be difficult to convince them about its justification. Since they are themselves abreast of the conditions prevailing in various countries of the world, it will not be wise to demand compensation from them. Previously they were made to believe that it was a matter of sheer luck that certain people were rich while others were poor and that this distinction was the creation of God. They are now fully aware that it is not a question of luck but certain of man. Such a state of affairs cannot continue further. This question is directly related to law and order. The number of persons who have been expropriated is much less that the number of those from whom the compensation is sought to be demanded. Therefore, this demand is not a just one because of the fact that law and order of the country has to be maintained at any cost. This can only be maintained by the free will of the majority. The Government is determined to raise the general standard of living of the people. It is also the duty of those people who are demanding compensation, to help the Government in this behalf so that we may march together towards prosperity and forget all our differences. With these words I support the motion.


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