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Enemy Property Act still haunts Goa

It is said Karachi had gained prominence in the eyes of the British during the Early 1800s. As the English colonisers began to develop Karachi as a trade hub, Goans began to migrate to this great city. From here they would also voyage to Africa and other continents in search of better prospects. These Goans had left a lot behind in Goa to build a new life in Pakistan. The 1965 war, between India and Pakistan, meant that Goans living in the latter had become enemies of India. It is in this war that lies the birth of Enemy Property Act, 1968.

1965 War

India was facing the Pakistani army on its Western borders in 1965. Pakistani leadership had assumed India to have weakened after the Sino-India war of 1962. Hence, Pakistan Invaded India. The war ended in a stalemate even though India had successfully repelled the Pakistani army and even entered Pakistan but a cease-fire was negotiated between the two warring states by the United Nations (UN). The two countries negotiated in the city of Tashkent, Soviet Union (the city is currently part Uzbekistan). The agreement signed there came to be known as ‘Tashkent Agreement’.

Evacuee property to enemy property

As some Indians citizens chose to leave India for Pakistan, their property was taken over by the Indian government and a custodian was appointed to look over these properties. These came to be known as the evacuee properties and were administered under the Evacuee Property Act, 1950. After Goa’s liberation, the property belonging to Goans who left the state was acknowledged under the Goa, Daman & Diu Administration of Evacuee Property Act, 1964.

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However, during the 1965 war, the Indians who had acquired Pakistani nationality and continued to own property in India were in for a shock. All the properties in India belonging to Pakistani nationals was considered as ‘enemy property’. A similar situation had taken place during the war with China in 1962. Under the Defence of India Rules, 1962, properties belonging to Chinese nationals were declared as enemy property. They continue to be identified as enemy property even today.

Enemy property includes land, jewellery, bank accounts, commercial properties, investments etc.

These properties were confiscated by the Indian Government and custodians were appointed to overlook them. In Goa too, many properties were classified as enemy properties.  A 2015 Konkani film ‘Enemy’ was based on this scenario. In the movie, the protagonist comes home after serving in the Indian army during the 1965 war only to find out that properties belonging to his family would be taken away from them because they are registered in the name of a relative who had migrated to Pakistan earlier.

Current scenario in Goa and India

There are about 16,000 enemy properties across India. In Goa itself, the government has identified 263 which are roughly estimated to be worth a Rs. 100 crores. On March 9, the central government will table the enemy property bill in the Rajya Sabha. If the bill is passed the government is set to gain properties worth at least Rs. 1 lakh crore as the enemy properties will be vested to them. The situation is such that the act doesn’t allow the heirs or relatives of Pakistani nationals living in India to inherit these properties, even after they have passed away.

The enemy properties taken over by Pakistani government during the 1965 war had been disposed of in 1971. In India, initially, enemy property amounted to somewhere around 2,000. Over the years the number has risen to 16,000. The bill if passed in the Rajya Sabha will certainly pull curtains on a long drawn chapter in the history of independent India.

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