J&K Apni Party president Syed Altaf Bukhari on Thursday said the party had not given up on restoration of Article 370 and 35-A while reaffirming that “only Supreme Court or Parliament can restore J&K’s special status.”
“Let me clarify that we have not given up on Article 370 and 35-A but the case is in the Supreme Court. Only the SC or the Parliament of India can decide. All our hopes are on the Supreme Court and I pray to Almighty that the decision of SC is as per the wishes and aspirations of our people,” Bukhari said.
He was addressing a press conference at the party office at Lal Chowk here during the announcement of the merger of JK Panchayat Conference with JKAP, as the two have decided to contest the forthcoming DDC polls jointly.
Bukhari said while he had all hope on the apex court, adding that the political parties of J&K such as PDP and NC won’t be able to restore Article 370.
“J&K unfortunately has only five members in the Parliament and when it was the question of saving (J&K’s special position) those five members couldn’t save it. So I am 100 per cent sure that they cannot bring it back unless 272 Parliamentarians support it,” Bukhari said.
While replying to a question on restoration of statehood, Bukhari said: “Statehood is something which is an identity, something we all want. This will increase the job avenues for our youth which is a prime source of employment here,” Bukhari said.
Bukhari said his party recently “got the centre to amend the domicile laws of J&K” and was hopeful that if brought to power JKAP will “change land laws within the first one week”.
“The new land law doesn’t suit the aspirations of the people of J&K. We have taken it up with the centre. We don’t believe in hollow sloganeering and we will ensure the lands of J&K are in the hands of people here and not in hands of someone else,” Bukhari said. He said JKAP was “not against industrialization of the state but that cannot be at the cost of our identity, culture and ethos.”
“The land law won’t get changed on its own and not something you will get on a plate as told by others. We will have to fight for it and I assure everybody that we in JKAP have started the fight to get land laws amended,” Bukhari said.
Replying to question on how he looks at the decision of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration of contesting forthcoming District Development Council polls, Bukhari remarked; “It took Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah 22 years to decide right track but only one month for PAGD to realise benefits of empowering grass root level democracy.”
He lauded JK Panchayat Conference for “its role in standing on the forefront of grass root level democracy when all mainstream political parties boycotted panchayat polls.”
“Some of their leaders had said the elections don’t hold any meaning for us. But today they have changed the vocabulary and jumped in the electoral fray after JKAP came forward,” Bukhari said.
Bukhari said all major political parties of J&K have now realised that “politics now begins with Panchayat and that all sorts of development can happen only through it”. Bukhari congratulated these parties for contesting DDC polls saying he was “glad that they have realised how important it was to empower grass root democracy”.
“Just ten days back these parties were shouting passionate slogans, which could have got our youth carried away. But now even these parties have realised that they can’t befool people anymore,” Bukhari said.
“It is amusing the way these leaders think that people of J&K are novice. Even today they continue promising us the moon even while they have decided to contest these elections. All this at a time when we know that these are development-oriented polls and have no gamut of political things. To save their face these parties pretend they are not keen on power but the ultimate game is that of power as it grows from grassroots,” Bukhari said.
While replying to a question that how he looks at the “role of BJP in changing demography of J&K in last few years”, Bukhari said: “The way Congress, NC and PDP are responsible for the mess we have today, similarly BJP is also responsible. They are equal partners in this mess as they were partners in power.”
At the press conference, the DDC election symbol for JKAP – a cricket bat- was also unveiled.
President of All Jammu and Kashmir Panchayat Conference, Shafiq Mir, along with the members of his party joined the Apni Party.
The joining as per a statement took place in presence of JKAP president Syed Muhammad Altaf Bukhari, senior vice president Ghulam Hassan Mir, state secretary and district president Budgam Muntazir Mohi-ud-Din, spokesperson Javid Hassan Baig, provincial vice president Jagmohan Singh Raina, district president Srinagar Noor Mohammad Sheikh, district president Baramulla Shoaib Lone, party media advisor Farooq Andrabi and provincial secretary Nazir Dailgami.
Shafiq Mir said that the “unique socio-economic and political agenda and the vision of its leadership distinguishes the Apni Party from the rest of regional political parties.” “Apni Party is the only party capable of addressing the challenges faced by the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the prevailing political circumstances,” Mir said.
“Those political parties that were so far averse to the idea of holding Panchayat elections in J&K during its first and second tiers have now realized that they will be rendered irrelevant if they don’t participate in the elections to the third tier of Panchayat Raj. So they have jumped into the fray,” Mir said. Noted socio-political activist from Baramulla Fazal Baig also joined the Apni Party, the statement said. Baig said that his joining was aimed at working for the welfare of people in his area. “I was convinced by the Apni Party’s agenda and this motivated me to work under this banner for the welfare of the general public,” Baig said.