“What Sheikh Abdullah did in 1975, we are trying to do same today”

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After it is clear that a group of former legislators in Jammu and Kashmir (J-K) have joined hands to form a new political party – led by former People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader Altaf Bukhari, its members say that the “traditionalism of politics has no role now.”

The speculations of new front or party started after Mr. Bukhari led seven former legislators to a meeting with the Lieutenant Governor G. C. Murmu in January 2020. After the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35-A in August 2019, electoral politics came at halt for months as most of the political leaders were put under detention.

However, with this meeting and release of a few more leaders – although, three top leaders, Omar Abdullah, Farooq Abdullah, and Mehbooba Mufti continue to be in detention – the mainstream politics shows sign of revival.

Speaking to The Kashmir Walla at Circuit house in Srinagar, Ghulam Hassan Mir, former legislator from Tangmarg constituency, who was part of the meeting too, says, “Can’t other people talk about things here? Is this an authority given only to National Conference [NC] and PDP? It is a crime if someone else wants to talk about political things, but it is justified if they do it.”

Being a senior politician, who has seen many governments come and go, Mr. Mir who is helping to form this new political party with Mr. Bukhari, adds, “What Sheikh Abdullah did in 1975, we are trying to do same thing today. He [Sheikh Abdullah] also felt at that time that he could not challenge the power. For the last forty years, we are only losing statuses and positions; now there is nothing to lose except saving things.”

“It’s people’s party”

If one wonders what the new party has to offer to people then Mr. Mir says, “Nothing.”

In the current troubled water of regional politics, the new party plans to enter with two main agendas – restoration of statehood to J-K and domicile rights to the local residents. “When I say that we are raising these issues, it does not mean that government of India will accept this or agree over it,” says Mr. Mir. “But, people have to come forward.”

Possibly to be named People’s Front – as per the sources, Mr. Mir says, “It’s people’s party. At this level, we are witnessing encouraging signs; currently, we have more than fifteen likeminded people in this group and that is a big success.”

Although, many, who are likely to be leaders of this new party, claim that no political activity will be successful unless rest of the politicians are released.
The political ideas of the existing mainstream parties – NC and PDP – mainly revolve around strengthening the constitutional autonomy and self-rule. Despite demanding their release, Mr. Mir also criticised the policies of the NC and PDP. “We are welcoming them but we are trying to save those things which are achievable,” says Mr. Mir, who believes that the new party will add “voice to the voices of people.”

“Local parties can never do anything; they are irrelevant before the restoration of the Article 370. Who are they to give it?” questions Mr. Mir. “People have always been fooled; like in 1996 assembly elections, the NC got two-third majority on telling people that they will restore autonomy, could they get it?”

Further proposing that Article 370’s restoration is only in the capacity of national parties including Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Congress, and Communist Party of India, he adds, “Otherwise it is a fable and false hope to the people from rest of the parties.”

Refusing to divulge into the politics of the NC and PDP, he adds, “They have failed on administrative levels.”

Mr. Mir confidently says that “people consider me a hard-core Indian, let them. “ He further adds that “a common person doesn’t want to be with India, but he is also aware of the fact otherwise is not achievable.”

Commenting over the process of elections, he says that it totally depends on whether the proposed delimitation process – which increases seven seats in the assembly – in the Reorganisation Act 2019 takes place or not.

If that is amended by the government, as Mr. Mir suggests, then the elections are at the door. “But, if they do delimitation, then in normal procedure, it will take at least fourteen months.”

To him, wherein the assembly elections might take two years, it would be immature to comment on making any coalition.

“The traditionalism of politics has no role now”

Another former legislator, who was a part of the meeting with Lt. Governor, told The Kashmir Walla, on anonymity, that nothing is clear on making a party. But, the process has begun as two to three former legislators are making efforts towards it.

“As far as I’m concerned, I am against fragmentation,” he said. “The more fragmentation is problematic to the people in general. But, it would be better if four to five parties would come under one banner.”
He further added that “if this party will be formed for the sake of a party, then it wouldn’t be able to deliver anything as there are already dozens of parties. How is that going to make a difference?”

Supporting his consensus, Mr. Mir adds, “We are waiting for things. There are certain consensuses inside the group now that we are trying to solve.”

Mr. Mir says that they passed a message, and whosoever wants to join the party, the doors are open.

“This is both – a message and an offer. Individuals and people from existing parties can come and join us,” he invites. “This time the message is clear, we have to get people out of the mess and to show them the way forward. The traditionalism of politics has no role now.”

Both opine contradictory. As Mr. Mir expresses that if NC and PDP follow the change, they are welcomed in the political space. “If they [NC and PDP] come and change their profile – tell people the real thing, I shall be the happiest person. At least they leave the politics of deceit.”

However, the former legislator wondered if that would be an easy thing to do for the NC and PDP. “They have already taken a position and for it they have to plan down,” he says. “In politics, when a party plans down, the party is no more.”

Adding to his comment, Mr. Mir notes “the problem among the people of J-K is they are expecting resolution of Kashmir issue from mainstream parties. Political parties can only help in facilitating normal problems. Their domain is confined to it.”

Mr. Mir believes that people of J-K are not fools anymore. “They will not buy those slogans and false hopes.”

Notably, the former legislator expressed, “We have to see the things we are demanding, and the possibility of that? There will be freedom of speech and expression when all the leaders will be out. [At that time] this will be decided if there is a need of any new party,” he had said in a recent discussion within the group. “If some parties already exist, what is the need of making a new one? If the local parties will be intact and a new party will emerge – what would all of us deliver then?”

Kaisar Andrabi is a Features Writer at The Kashmir Walla

This story originally appeared in our 20 – 26 January 2020 print edition.

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