Srinagar J&K flag
The Indian flag hoisted atop the seven-story secretariat building.Twitter

The Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir has responded to the sharp criticism of the political parties of the valley on "strategic areas" notification which facilitates construction by the armed forces beyond the cantonment area. Clarification has come after the regional political parties, including the National Conference (NC), the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and the Peoples Conference called the decision than an attempt to change J&K into a "military establishment".

What is the issue?

Notably, the J&K administration amended the Control of Building Operations Act, 1988, and the J&K Development Act, 1970. As per a report in the Print, the amendments conferred powers to Cantonment Board and Armed Forces to conduct construction activities beyond the cantonments. Till now the governing body that manages the construction of facilities for the armed forces is the Cantonment Board had authority only in areas falling under cantonments in J&K only. Soon after the amendments were announced, the regional parties heavily criticized the move.

In a statement the government said, "A few political parties are deliberately misleading people as if the land is being transferred to the Armed Forces and the entire J&K is being turned into a military establishment. It is being alleged that new areas are going to be declared as strategic where laws regulating development will not prevail. All these are baseless comments being made without reading facts." The statement further added, "It is important for the people to correctly know the facts, understand the rationale and importance of the decision, to avoid believing these mindless misrepresentations and misgivings."

Girish Chandra Murmu
Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir: Image: @ANI/Twitter

The administration argued that due to the strategic importance of constructing such infrastructure within defined time-frames such a special power was very much called for. It also clarified that the law will not be misused. It was also claimed that all the activities will "conform to the overall development plan" of an area and keep in mind environmental concerns.

Attempt to turn J&K into 'military establishment'

The government last week had notified in this regard, as a step that was immediately criticized by the national conference which argued that it was a mere attempt to turn J&K into a "military establishment".