Revenue Minister Javaid Mustafa Mir tells Saima Bhat that people should come forward and help the government in identifying land grabbers so that action can be taken against them
Kashmir Life (KL): Your constituency falls under one of the most marginalized districts of Kashmir i.e. Budgam. And to make things worse, most of it is populated in what experts claim used to be river basin.
Javaid Mustafa Mir (JMM): I don’t remember any revenue authority notifying my constituency as river basin. I won’t allow anybody to use my constituency, particularly Lasjan, as a dumping yard for flood waters. Before me, my father Mustafa Mir, who was first elected as an MLA from Chadoora in 1972, used to protect Kandizal. Now I am doing it since last 13 years. Unlike posh-addresses like Mehjoor Nagar and Hyderpora, my home place Lasjan is not inhabited in paddy fields. Lasjan is inhabited since centuries. You will be surprised to know that Lasjan is better elevated than Rajbagh. So I will not allow anybody to breach Kandizal to save river basins like Mehjoor Nagar or Rajbagh.
KL: This hard image of yours has made you popular beyond party loyalties among your voters?
JMM: Well that is the legacy of my father. People vote for me because I put my life at risk: first for the sake of Allah, then for my voters. They see my father in me. So I act like that. I am a solider for a solider, administrator to administrator, tough with those who act tough, rough for rough and easy with those who are nice.
KL: Post floods revenue record is in shambles. How much we have lost and what is left with us?
JMM: Our revenue record is perfectly safe. It is safe because our officers put their lives at risk during floods. I have recommended cash reward of Rs 10,000 for those officers who saved records at Bemina.
KL: You have tightened noose around land grabbers, how much state land is illegally occupied in Jammu and Kashmir?
JMM: A major part of illegally occupied land is under Army in J&K. Rest is negligible compared to what Army has taken. But unlike you, I call it encroachment because nobody can grab land in actuality. And most of the encroachment is done by the Army. On my recent visit to Leh, I found the entire city squeezed to a corner while Army has encroached upon the rest. Later I held a meeting and ordered officials to ask Army to pay us rent right from 1947. Else no more land will be given to them. They cannot acquire land in J&K. They are non-state subjects. If we look at the outstanding rent, it is whooping 126-136 Crore for just three army camps in Ladakh. Rest I am not counting here. If we cannot vacate these encroachers, at least we can generate revenue from them. We are thinking of legalizing them in a proper way but let them pay the rent first.
KL: Does your definition of land grabbers include the politicians as well. How much land has been illegally occupied by ministers, where and by whom?
JMM: I can’t say ministers but yes politicians are involved in one way or other. In fact not all politicians, but most of them are involved. I can’t name any of them, I am under oath!
KL: You had said, ‘I have enough proof against these land grabbers.’ Then why are you silent on the land scams in Jammu?
JMM: Well I am not silent. I never said I have proof. If I had any proof I would have acted against them. We are gathering evidence as of now, and wherever we get it, action will be taken accordingly. I appeal people to come forward with evidence against these land grabbers and help the poor state generate revenue. Let us work together to get this land back.
KL: A recent High Court judgment says only those people will be appointed Pathwaris who can read and write Urdu? What is your take on this given the huge unemployment in the state?
JMM: From Walter Lawrence’s time Urdu is our official language. Every revenue document is written in Urdu. It is state’s official language, how can we deviate from it. If a Pathwari cannot read or write state’s official language, how will that be fair? Pathwari’s job is important since they are the main record keepers. You want me to employ anybody and everybody and destroy state’s records. Without proper record keeping Kashmir will cease to exist on the face of earth. There is no compromise on Urdu as far as revenue department is concerned. It is our official language and it will remain so. I am a minister today, I might not be there after 10 minutes, but Urdu will be there for sure.
KL: Then why some of the Pathwaris were transferred from Jammu’s Muslim dominated areas?
JMM: There is nothing fishy in it. I don’t discriminate between regions or places in my state. I am open to any scrutiny. Anybody can come and check the records. I am here to serve the people, render services which they require legally.
KL: Why there is no action taken against those people who have constructed religious places inside river beds?
JMM: In last one century Jhelum has shrunken alarmingly. Its carrying capacity has decreased to all time low because of such encroachments. The main culprits are those living on the either side of the Jhelum. They have encroached river banks like never before. I wonder a Muslim requires just a small patch of land for his grave, then why is he after so much of land!
KL: Why don’t you adopt new land bill which is better than the earlier land acquisition bill?
JMM: I have already directed all deputy commissioners to be generous in paying compensation against land taken for developmental projects. But we have to follow rules as the deed is sealed in a court of law. We have to pay as per the agreement or deed. The problem also arises when people, in order to save tax money, undervalue their land in papers. That sometimes gets a land owner less than what is his due. If people are truthful, they will surely get what they deserve.
KL: PRC were given to students in Kishtwar, you claimed it was stopped when it actually wasn’t. Now online PRC are going to start in Samba. What are you doing?
JMM: There is no harm in issuing online PRC’s under Public Service Guarantee Act. If a person is applying online with proper certified and verified documents then how can one stop him from getting a PRC. It is his right. I as a revenue minister take full responsibility if any fake PCR was issued in Kishtwar, which to my full knowledge was not the case. PCR’s were provided there only after proper check. But we stopped the process long back.
KL: State Subject Commission had identified 550 families who were non-state subjects. A large number of people from Punjab, Bihar, Madhya Pardesh and Himachal Pardesh have reportedly settled in Jammu?
JMM: I have recently cancelled 133 PRCs; something that has never been done before by any minister. But I don’t know the origin of these people.
KL: When your party was in opposition you were vocal about Trans-World Islamic University bill. Is it still on your priority list?
JMM: The bill still figures on my priority list. I think you must ask this question to those who were pursuing it. Where are they now? I was and am always there to help.
KL: There is massive encroachment of jungles and green areas going on in eco-fragile tourist spots like Pahalgham, Gulmarg, Sonmarg, Yusmarg etc. But you never talk about it. People allege that your silence is because of politician – land mafia nexus?
JMM: [Laughs] These areas are mostly forest land. It is forest department’s duty to alert us if there is any encroachment going on in these areas. I will definitely act against the violators.
I don’t know these people who play dirty tricks to grab or purchase land by illegal means. Have you ever seen any such person around me? If at all you see any such tainted person with me, please grab me by my collar as has been mentioned in Hadith. I am never afraid to call a spade a spade.