The Jammu and Kashmir government has declared nearly 70 hectares of land in Gulmarg and Sonamarg tourist resorts of the valley as "strategic areas", paving the way for the armed forces to take control of these land patches. The armed forces can undertake infrastructure development even in ecologically fragile areas which are declared "strategic areas" by the government.

PDP president Mehbooba Mufti criticised the government move, saying the allocation of huge tracts of land to armed forces in tourist areas of Jammu and Kashmir confirmed the intention of the Centre to "convert J&K into a military garrison".

According to an order issued in Jammu on 31 December 2021 by the Tourism Department of Jammu and Kashmir, 1,034 kanals (approximately 52 hectares) of land at the famous ski-resort of Gulmarg in Baramulla district and 354 (approximately 18 hectares) kanals in Sonmarg, another popular destination in Ganderbal district, were declared as "strategic areas" for the use of armed forces in the region.

The Corps Commander will look over strict adherence to the environment-related laws to prevent any environmental hazard and ensure that no other law applicable in the union territory of J&K is breached, the order said.

"Corp Commander shall ensure that the orders, if any, passed by an hon'ble court/tribunal in this regard, are strictly adhered to," the order reads.

This was the first notification issued by the administration of the union territory after the amendment to Jammu and Kashmir Development Act 1970 by the Union Home Ministry in October 2020 through an executive order.

The Administrative Council headed by the Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir gave its nod to the amendment to the Control of Building Operations Act 1988 and the J&K Development Act, 1970 to provide for special dispensation for carrying out construction activities in strategic areas.

As per the amendments, the armed forces can undertake infrastructure development even in ecologically fragile areas which are declared as "strategic areas" by the government.

Slamming the government move, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti tweeted, "Allocating thousands of Kanals to armed forces that too in tourist areas confirms GOIs intention to convert J&K into a military garrison. Under the 'state land' pretext, our land is up for grabs & to add insult to injury locals are being evicted from their homes."