New regional party in J&K has 'national outlook,' wants statehood, domicile rights

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The newly formed J&K Apni Party (JKAP), which is projecting itself as a third front against the two main political parties of Kashmir, has sought domicile rights and statehood for Jammu & Kashmir from the Central government.

In its first meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the national capital on Saturday, a delegation of the party headed by Altaf Bukhari told him that people in J&K have several apprehensions regarding their land, jobs and businesses following the nullification of Article 370.

Ghulam Hassan Mir, one of the main architects of the Apni Party, in an interview to IANS just before the delegation went to meet the Prime Minister, said the visit was necessary to put forward the point of view of Kashmiri people before the Centre.

“There is a new dimension to politics in J&K since the loss of statehood and nullification of Article 370. We are a regional party with a national outlook. We want to work for the welfare of our people in the region and with a national consensus. We have no confusion about it. We will work with the Centre regardless of who is in power. We are not going to mislead people and promise them anything that’s unrealistic as NC (National Conference) and PDP did,” he said.

A public school teacher-turned-politician Mir said that the delegation was visiting New Delhi to request Prime Minister Modi to reach out to people in the state. 

“Today there is a convergence of issues in Kashmir and Jammu, after the abrogation of Article 370. People in both the regions are worried that if J&K youth have to compete with the youth of the rest of the country in education, jobs and business, they will end up being losers. Similarly, there is anxiety about land, environment now that anyone can buy and settle in J&K. But above all, there is a sense of disenfranchisement by the reduction of J&K state to a Union Territory. We demand restoration of statehood and we will keep raising all these issues as a party,” he said.

Though politicians in J&K have accused JKAP of being an ally of the BJP in the state, Mir dismissed it. “We spoke to the people in Kashmir and asked them what they wanted. Common people are facing problems and want their redressal. We formed a political party to mitigate their miseries and we will follow the democratic process by going back to them. People and time will prove that we are independent. We will oppose the BJP wherever and whenever it is required.”

The Apni Party comprises several former NC and PDP legislators and members, Mir said, and had only leadership to offer to people in J&K. “We are talking about people and we will talk about everyone. We don’t have anything else to offer,” he said rubbishing the accusation that the Apni Party had poached members from the two main political parties of Kashmir.

Mir, known for his pro-India politics and political manoeuvring, incidentally was a founding member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) headed by the Muftis and later a minister in the Omar Abdullah government too. Though Farooq Abdullah has been released, the other two former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti continue to be in detention in Kashmir.

“Detention of political leaders is not acceptable in a democracy. We all were detained and ever since we got released, we have been asking for the release of others as well,” Mir said before he met the PM today.