Jammu & Kashmir

Politicians of Kashmir ‘hoodwink people, create smokescreen’ by demanding restoration of Article 370, says Altaf Bukhari

We had told Mehbooba Ji let’s modify Article 35A as it is against Islam but she didn’t listen’

Srinagar: The chief of the newly formed Apni party and former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Altaf Bukhari has said that ‘Gupkar Declaration’ is local parties’ means to grab power in Jammu and Kashmir.

According to a report published by a Delhi based news organization The Print, Bukhari said that politicians in Kashmir are “hoodwinking” the people and “creating a smokescreen” by demanding the restoration of Article 370.

“These people met on 3 August and said we will protect Article 370, which was removed two days later. So the resolution is over. Yes, the Apni Party is for 370 restoration, but only the Supreme court or the Parliament can do that. No regional party can do that,” Bukhari was quoted in a report as having said.

“They (parties) are hoodwinking people and creating a smokescreen by demanding Article 370. Gupkar Declaration is a means to grab power and nothing else,” he added.

Ahead of the revocation of special status, the declaration was signed by all major parties of Jammu and Kashmir.

The senior leader claimed that mainstream parties knew about the decision to revoke the special status beforehand. He also spoke about the allegations of him working for the GoI, his party’s plans to protect the rights of the people of JK and elections in the state.

Talking about the 5 August 2019 decision, Bukhari claimed the National Conference (NC) and PDP leaderships were well aware of the move.

He claimed that Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi had conveyed this to the NC when a party delegation including president Farooq Abdullah, vice president Omar Abdullah and Anantnag MP Justice (retd) Hasnain Masoodi met him days before the Article 370 was scrapped.

Bukhari made these comments upon asking about his meeting with the Modi where the latter assured him that GoI does not intend to change the demography of JK.

“The PM told me only a mad person will think of changing the demography of Kashmir. ‘Is Kashmir part of Pakistan? Why should we change the demography of Kashmir then?” the report quoted Bukhari as saying.

“Our detractors at Gupkar say that they also went (to PM) and were told Article 370 won’t be removed. But from what I know they (NC) were very clearly told that Article 370 will go. Did the PM issue any statement that he will not remove Article 370? No,” he claimed.

“The PDP leadership also knew. Who will believe that former CM’s won’t know?” Bukhari, one of the most senior politicians at PDP before he parted ways last year, he was quoted further saying.

However, when the senior leader was asked if he knew that such a decision was going to be taken, he said: “Yes we had some idea that something is going to happen but honestly we didn’t know what it was exactly. About removal of 35A, we were 100 per cent sure even when we were in government. We had told Mehbooba ji let’s modify Article 35A as it is against Islam. Islam provides property rights to women, but she didn’t listen,” he said.

On Mehbooba Mufti’s detention, Bukhari said that she must be released soon. “Mehbooba ji should be released. A lot of people say that she is staying at her home, that she is in a presidential palace but prison is a prison. Our politics may be different but she should be released. She is a noble soul,” Bukhari said.

As Apni Party was formed when senior politicians of the valley were under detention, his party fetched a lot criticism, Bukhari, questioned why his party members were being called “agents of Delhi”.

“They want people to believe that Apni Party members are agents of Delhi but tell me, since 1947, who has not been an agent of Delhi? I am not accusing them of anything but truth is New Delhi is the seat of power. Delhi decides things,” the report quoted Bukhari as saying.

“Who decided to make Sheikh Abdullah emergency administrator in 1947? Who decided that he became chief minister in 1975 when Congress was in power? Who decided alliances between NC and Congress, PDP and Congress and then PDP and BJP? Till yesterday, they were saying PDP is the creation of the Intelligence Bureau,” he added.

He said when he launched the party, nine out of 10 people in the Valley distrusted it and the one who would offer support would do so based on speculation that “New Delhi is with us”. “Now the situation is at least four out of 10 people in Kashmir support us and the numbers will grow,” he said.

Seeking to adopt Arvind Kejriwal’s successful Aam Aadmi Party model for his party, Bukhari said that his party is the only grouping that truly intends to work for the welfare of people in Jammu and Kashmir by protecting their rights to jobs and land.

“Unfortunately, the National Conference is responsible for selling our lands. Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah made modifications to the Land Grants Act and started to give land (to non-locals) on lease. We can’t reverse that,” he said.

“Even now it’s fine to give land to industries on lease but even if an inch of agricultural land is given to non-domicile, we will fight it out on the streets and not at Gupkar,” said Bukhari.

He also said his party was instrumental in bringing the domicile law for jobs earlier this year and intends to bring a domicile law for land through which non-domiciles will not be allowed to buy agricultural land. Rights to land and government jobs were restricted to locals before the scrapping of Article 370.

The report added that Apni party is planning to fight elections whenever they are held. “We don’t know yet whether elections will take place before giving J&K statehood or after it. It is too premature to say that but we know that elections are the only means to solve the problems of the common man. People complain that bureaucracy isn’t listening to them. So elections are important and we will fight them whenever held,” Bukhari told the news organization.

He added that his party will not lie to the people and make false promises of bringing back Article 370.

“For Altaf Bukhari, power is not paramount. I may not succeed but I will tell people the truth and create space in their hearts for me. The truth is that Kashmir will never go to Pakistan or to China, the truth is Kashmir is going to be with India and our priority is to protect our lands and jobs,” Bukhari said.

“Apni Party’s biggest challenger in Jammu will be BJP and in Kashmir, it will be the conglomerate of all these parties. They will fight the elections for sure because if they don’t their existence will be wiped out. They will plan to stand for elections together so that they will not accuse each other of compromising on the positions they have taken,” he said.

“They can’t make the election as a referendum on whether we are with India or we are independent. It will be an election on achievable issues,” the report quoted Bukhari as having said.

Pertinently, on August 5, 2020, Authorities clamped down on a crucial meeting of political leaders at incumbent parliamentarian Farooq Abdullah’s Gupkar residence in Srinagar. No political leader was allowed to reach Abdullah’s house.

The Parliament of India had in August 2019, adopted a resolution to abrogate Article 370, and passed a Bill to bifurcate the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, controlled directly by the Government of India.

Article 370 granted Jammu and Kashmir autonomy, and its scrapping was done as all Kashmiri political representatives were kept under detention, communication in Kashmir was blacked out, and thousands were imprisoned.

The removal of Article 370 has made concrete the fears of demographic change in the Muslim majority region of Kashmir, as laws regarding land ownership and citizenship have been changed by the Government of India controlled administration.

 

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