Constituent Assembly Debates

Mir Assad Ullah 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 Mir Assad Ullah, Member Constituent Assembly

Mir Assad Ullah:  Mr. President, in regard to the part of the Land Compensation Committee it is to be decided as to whether the proprietors who have been deprived of their lands exceeding 182 kanals are entitled to get compensation or not. On this report almost all the Hon’ble members have expressed their views before the House. Now we have to see as to whom and by whom it is to be paid and on what conditions. On these three points I would like to say something. A glance over the world history would reveal that the whole universe is a God-given and the Nature ahs ordained that all human being living on this universe have equal claims over the land. The nature or Almighty has not given this privilege to a single man only that he should possess the land on his own accord and thus acquire right of ownership for himself only. If we take this system into consideration we are faced with a question as to whether Zamindars owing land beyond 182 kanals were legally and morally entitled or they were empowered to do so? Taking into consideration these fundamental rights. I would say that the validity given to such ownership was unjustified. This was done by the ruler simply to maintain his autocratic power and with this idea intermediary class of people sprang up through whose help he was desirous to see the poor in distress and despair.

Hon’ble Mirza Afzal Beg who is the Chairman of this Committee has fully explained the circumstance under which the land was granted or transferred to these big landlords, and he has thrown ample light on the facts as to whether they are justified in claiming compensation. The Chairman of the Committee has fully explained as to how Jagirdars, Zamindars or Patadars came into existence and how they have usurped the property of these poor cultivators. I would say it was the Ruler of the State who deprived the cultivators of their land. He claimed an absolute and indivisible right of ownership over eh State land merely on account of his conquests and sale deeds and thus he of his own accord granted land either to his own favourites or to such persons who assured him to extend full co-operation in order to maintain his autocratic power. Lacs of kanals of land were transferred to Jagirdars and chakdars on the understanding that they would render every sort of help in maintaining the autocracy of the ruler and thus they were allowed to swallow up the whole out-turn of land of the poor cultivators. Such a step was not justified morally. In addition to vast areas of land the Jagirdars already owned, they received large tracts of land under Raj Tilak Boon.

Lands have been granted to such persons who were related to or were the favourites of the Ruler. As a result of this policy the present middle class came into being in the shape of Jagirdars and Zamindars. These are the persons who have Assamies in village and have an absolute right of ownership over land. The poor cultivators are deprived of their income which they earn by the sweat of their brow. It is apparent that by fixing 182 kanals of holding for the Chakdars the Committee have kept Chakdari system alive. It was out of a sense of justice that the land held by the big landlords was transferred to these poor cultivators. The question to pay compensation does not arise at all. The report submitted before the House is a result of the great efforts of the Hon’ble members. It is laid down on page 5 of the Report (English version) that the fundamental rights of Indian Constitution are not applicable to our State. We have adopted the principle that the landlords should be deprived of the land in excess of 182 kanals. Some Hon’ble members state that we have poor resources to compensate the landlord. In case they take this point into consideration the force of the principle is reduced. But sometimes it is also said that the question of transfer of 55 lacs of kanals is to be considered and that is not an easy job. If the financial position of our State becomes strong in future, we have no other alternative but to compensate the ex-appropriated landlords. In my opinion, the Hon’ble Members have conditionally agreed to pay compensation. Therefore, it is a contradiction in terms.

“It is true, that the proprietary right in land has been recognized by the State and it is also true, that the Land Acquisition Act of the State does provide for payment of compensation for lands acquired for public purposes. But it is to be understood that the acquisition of land under the State Land Acquisition act is strictly speaking a business deal and the sort of universal land acquisition scheme (which has since enforced) must be governed by entirely different consideration. It is possible to pay full compensation at the market value of land when the State acquires a small plot for widening a road or building a railway or public institution. But it is neither possible nor desirable to pay compensation when as many 55 lac kanals of land are taken over.”

Sir, with your permission I want to invite the attention of the House to the following lines; “They well know that the Fundamental Rights as contained in that Constitution (of India) did not at all apply to the State. While the Indian Government with its vast resources might be in a position to pay compensation for lands acquired by it the Kashmir Government is fully conscious of their limitations and must deal with their problems in their own say in the larger interests of the country.”

Sir, again there is a contradiction in these lines, when the members of the committee have agreed to this principle of not giving compensation to the proprietors who have been ejected from their lands.

Maulana Saeed Masoodi: Sir, Hon’ble Member may be directed not to say anything about any person or member. He should discuss the subject of the report only.

Mir Assad Ullah:– Thank you Sir. The report which the committee has presented before the House, has not thoroughly been examined. If we have admitted the basic principle that we cannot afford to provide any compensation then we have to follow it strictly. India has sufficient resources; therefore, she can easily compensate the expropriated landlords. First of all we have to see as to whether payment of compensation is justified or not. For instance one of the big landlords and Jagirdars is the Ruler of Chenani. He is a proprietor of two lacs and thirty thousand of kanals of land. He did not himself put in any labour to make this land cultivable. But all these lands were cultivated by those poor tillers who had cleared the jungle and wood and had brought the barren lands under plough. The man had a claim over this estate only because it was transferred to him under Raj Tilak Boom by Maharaja Gulab Singh. In this respect Hon’ble Mirza Afzal Beg has said in lucid terms that the Settlement Officer of the time refused to recognize the proprietary right, in land of the raja being a relative of the Maharaja he was made the owner of two lacs and thirty thousand kanals of land by a single stroke of pen. This land in reality belonged to cultivators who were tilling it at that time.

Under these circumstances the experts of the Committee ought to have considered that instead of demanding compensation, the landlords ought to have transferred the land to the tillers.

Sardar Harbans Singh Azad (Parliamentary Secretary): Sir, I raise a point of order that under Parliamentary practice we cannot make any personal remark in the House.

Mir Assad Ullah: Sir, I mentioned the name of the Raja of Chenani because it exists in the report.

  1. M. Sadiq (President):- If the Hon’ble member will quote the particular section of Parliamentary practice, I will think over it otherwise the Hon’ble member is permitted to mention his (Raja’s) name for the sake of reference.

Sardar Harbans Singh Azad (Parliamentary Secretary):- Sir, I beg to submit that not to speak of mentioning his name only, but such facts are mentioned against him which do not benefit the dignity of this House. Besides this if anything is said against him he should at least be present in the House to defend himself.

Hon’ble G.M.Sadiq (President): I have already said that unless any article of the Parliamentary Practice is quoted by the Hon’ble member, the member is allowed to mention his (Raja’s) name.

Assad Ullah Mir: Sir, I was submitting that lakhs of kanals of land were possessed by the Raja of Chanani and other Jagirdars simply because it was entered in their names in the Patwar. They could easily get these fraudulent entries made in the Patwar, because none could dear to oppose them. With reference to the mortgage properties I would like to say that if anybody has mortgage his land for sum of Rs.400/- and the mortgagee has derived considerable profit from the principle amount then the mortgaged land can be restituted to the mortgaged land can be restituted to the mortgagor. That is why we are saying that those who have usurped the land by undesirable means and have derived sufficient profit out of it, should return it to the tillers without demanding any compensation from them and the landlords should at least pay some share out of the profit earned from the produce of these estates. But no such law has been enacted in the State. It appears from the report of the committee that the claims of cultivators have been ignored. So far as the question of basic principle is concerned, the committee should have clearly stated in its report that according to this principle we cannot afford to provide any compensation to the big landlords who have already earned a lot from the produce of these estates by sucking blood of the poor cultivators. It is not justifiable to say that the economic position is not sound to afford any compensation for 55 lakhs of kanals of land. In case we take up the arguments advanced by the big proprietors that their right to property is protected under fundamental rights then none can deprive them of it, they should therefore, be compensated on being expropriated. I am justified in saying that under the law of Nature the land belongs to the tiller. The cultivators who till the land have got this privilege under Natural Rights. It is a separate question if any piece of land is taken by the Government for public works or for constructions of road or school building. Payment of compensation in such cases cannot be questioned. To pay compensation to expropriated landlords whose number is insignificant tells upon 90% of the population. Under such circumstances how can a public interest be sacrificed for vested interest. Therefore, they are not entitled to any compensation and with these words I support the Report presented in the House.


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About the author

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Zafar Choudhary

A journalist since 1999, Zafar Choudhary is also a policy analyst and author. An alumni of the London School of Economics, his book ‘Kashmir Conflict and Muslims of Jammu’ addresses a critical gap in scholarship on Kashmir. Zafar is founder and editor of The Dispatch

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