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India to sell 'enemy shares' of people who fled to Pakistan

[NEW DELHI] India's government is to sell more than US$400 million worth of shares left behind by people who fled to Pakistan or China after wars with those countries.

The government said the "enemy shares" were in 996 companies held by 20,323 people and entities. They were seized after conflicts with Pakistan in 1947, 1965 and 1971 and the 1962 border war with China.

The sale, to be led by India's finance minister, is expected to raise at least US$413 million, a minister said after the government announcement late Thursday.

The proceeds would be used for development and social welfare programmes, the government added.

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The shares are being sold under a 1968 law which defined as "enemy assets" those belonging to people who left India following the conflicts with Pakistan and China.

Citizens of hostile countries were treated as "enemies" and their assets including land, houses, jewellery and shares were seized.

Descendants of those who fled the country however continued to live in some of the properties.

"The decision will lead to monetisation of enemy shares that had been lying dormant for decades since coming into force of the Enemy Property Act in 1968," said the government statement.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nationalist government amended the controversial law in 2017 to include even assets held by legal heirs who stayed behind and were Indian citizens. This triggered outrage as many of those who left for Pakistan were Muslims.

Families who remain in the listed properties fear being evicted any time.

The government said in January it had identified more than 9,400 "enemy" assets for auction. Among these, 9,280 properties were left behind by Pakistani nationals and 126 by Chinese.

AFP