J&K’s new political party and its contradictory ‘outlook’

Home Minister Amit Shah met a delegation of Jammu & Kashmir's Apni Party led by Altaf Bukhari, in New Delhi on March 15, 2020. (Photo: PIB)
Home Minister Amit Shah met a delegation of Jammu & Kashmir's Apni Party led by Altaf Bukhari, in New Delhi on March 15, 2020. (Photo: PIB)

Jammu and Kashmir’s new political party called JK Apni Party (JKAP) is very much in the news. Only a fortnight ago its delegation comprising twenty four members called on the Home Minister Amit Shah. If JK Apni Party (JKAP), the new political party inspired by senior Kashmir advocate-politician and former Deputy Chief Minister of PDP, Muzaffar Hussain Baig with Altaf Bukhari as the handle, is the replication of Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad and his National Conference, then the fate of JKAP and its leadership will be nothing different from the fate that visited Bakhshi. Congress propped up Bakhshi and Congress dumped him later, thus exposing the state to what it is facing since 1990. Will BJP behave differently, is the baffling question.

The emergence of a new party, the amalgam of disgruntled, ambitious and self-seeking legislators of de-popularized parties and the lumpen, was a natural corollary to the political void that has gripped J&K ever since the surfacing of Jamat-i-Islami promoted jihadist movement in Kashmir along with its ramifications. In that sense, Altaf is not far away from the truth that “circumstances warranted the formation of a new political party in J&K,” as he has put it.

However, his statement to the press more than a week ago, which has received wide coverage, is disappointingly archaic and bundled in ambiguities and inaccuracies. There is hardly any cognizable symptom that he has wriggled out of the traditionally notorious Kashmirian mindset of putting hard realities under the rubric of soft semantic code.

Let us be precise. He defines JKAP as “a regional party with a national outlook.” Fantastic semantics isn’t it, but it has no takers. The core of the Kashmir issue is a fathomless void between the “region and nation.” The big majority of the region viz. Kashmir Valley and newly carved cut Chenab Valley, want secession from the Union; Jammu wants either separate state or integration into the Indian Union, and the border regions of Rajouri and Poonch districts are indecisive and in limbo because the Gujjars and Bakarwals are apprehensive of dark future if detached from India, and finally the internally displaced people being the indigenous people of the valley want a separate homeland within the valley. How is Bukhari’s Apni party going to reconcile these diametrically conflicting interests with national outlook? Please be a realist and stop vague statements.

Again, the famous phrase of Abraham Lincoln is very oddly borrowed by Altaf. Who are the commoners he is alluding to? If the valley people and leadership were the commoners, they would not have brought the situation to such a pass in which Indian forces needed to protect the grave of Sheikh Abdullah from being vandalized by those very people who followed him for forty long years and won the struggle of ousting the Dogra rule. Who would we consider commoner among the people of the three regions and sub-regions and how? Valley population being altogether Muslim never accept themselves as commoners because Islam does not include its people among the commoners. Islamists are different people with different ideology and different destination. That is what the history of Islam says.

Pragmatically speaking, Kashmir is not in a political void as Bukhari thinks; rather it is in a perfect political frame. Kashmiris and their political leadership invited foreigners to help them replace law and order in the valley with anarchy, lawlessness and barbarism and ethnic cleansing. They got what they wanted and they are happy with it. Had they not been, they would have revolted against it. They reconciled to it for three decades and are determined to continue the joys and pleasure of decadence. This is the destiny that people of Kashmir have been cherishing and what justification has Altaf to recommend deviation from it.

Altaf has mentioned three primary aims of his newly founded party. First is the restoration of Statehood. He needs to be a realist, which either he is not, or he pretends not to be. Statehood of J&K had to be dismembered essentially and solely because the Kashmir Valley majority government and legislature with pronounced pro-communal orientation discriminated Jammu and Ladakh regions so ruthlessly that they left no option for the Union government but to dismember the state. The statehood will never be revived because Jammu region will be lost to it for all times to come as has the Ladakh region. Therefore our suggestion to Altaf would be please do not try to drag the dead horse and do not mislead the people any more. You are wearing a very thin transparent attire by asking for the revival of the state. Forget that and let people everywhere stay in a sober mood.

The second objective of JKAP as stated by the leader is the protection of domicile rights. This has already been conceded by the Home Minister Amit Shah at the time of tabling the reorganization bill. There is nothing wrong in asking for domicile rights and we support it. However, the question is that domicile rights have to percolate down to the regional and sub-regional levels as well. What right has the people of Kashmir Valley to purchase village after village in Jammu region and build dozens of exclusively Muslim localities all around the peripheries of Jammu city but at the same time disallow Pandits to resettle in the Kashmir Valley? Domicile rights are acceptable only if regional and sub-regional dimensions of law are accepted. Similar is the case of job reservations. It is for the JKAP leadership to consider how safe the Kashmiri settlers in different parts of the country will be in the wake of the party demanding domicile rights for its people.

The third objective is of supporting “dignified return of the Kashmiri Pandits.” This is the repeat-in-repeat rhetoric voiced by all previous leaders, governments and legislators, which is only fake and false. Kashmiri Pandits just laugh at it. Mr Altaf knows and let me reiterate that the return of the Kashmiri Pandits is a priority issue not with him, not with the state, or the central government and not with any political party in India. It is definitely a priority with the Ummah, with the Caliphate and the Muslim world. He knows it and we need not substantiate the issue. By raking up the issue of return of IDPs (internally displaced persons), he will be playing with fire. Pandits will accept nothing short of a separate homeland in the valley. Those who threw them out shall have to pay a price for their sins.  No power in the world will stop them from achieving that demand. The UN Human Rights Charter allows it. The Pandits know that the Indian government will not allow it because its political mind is surcharged with vote bank strategy. The homeland demand of the Kashmir Pandits destroys the very basis of the false and ramshackle ideology of winning the Muslim vote bank by sacrificing the interests of the Pandits. Pandits want homeland because they want their identity and political empowerment and will not survive as underdogs or the “other”. What Altaf should say is that the Pandits will return to their separate homeland in the valley because they have been wronged and reparation has to be made.   

Altaf says he has to talk to Delhi. As long as they are on the same page, their talks will go on but when the pages alter, the story of Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad will reappear.

In the final analysis, Altaf has to decide whether he has to continue with clear and decisive political perception or with duplicity and taqiyya meaning non-transparency. The ball is in his court. Our sincere advice to Altaf will be to make good diagnosis of the ailment and then propose medication. If he is really caring for the people he should forget all programmes and undertake only one and that is of rationalizing the criminalized, fundamentalized, indoctrinated and polluted minds of the people of Kashmir. He can take a cue from the life and works of late Bakhshi Sahib. Doctor does the diagnosis first and medication next.

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