JK News Today Commentary

Srinagar : Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari has been elected Apni Party president for the second term of three years beginning March 10, the day announcement of his election to the top post of the party that he founded three years ago, without facing any contest It reflected the unanimity in the party for the leader, who, in the brief period of three years has created a niche for politics where “ will bring down moon” narrative replaced with what’s possible and what’s not.

His tryst with the new party that he inaugurated on March 8, 2020 , was a test of sorts because the time when he took this step , Kashmir , once the political nerve centre of regional politics with national and international dimensions, was devoid of any political voice .

There was not even a feeble voice challenging one-sided narrative that everything has been corrected in Kashmir with the abrogation of the Article 370 , taking away the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and splitting the state into two union territories .

If this was one narrative which the nation believed without any question , the other , too, had its pitfalls that for any leader in the Valley to talk about anything less than the restoration of the Article 370 and reunification of the UTs into the old state of prior to August 5, 2019 , was a betrayal with the people who were angry on what had befallen them.

They were apprehensive that they would be losing their exclusive rights to jobs and land in J&K , and the outsiders may deluge their land, submerging their religious, ethnic , linguistic identity . The fears were real , and these deepened as they found that there was no one coming forward to air their inner feelings. They were feeling choked.

The Apni Party laid the foundation of politics of realism – it made restoration of the statehood to the UT of J&K as its prime objective , knowing that the UT of Ladakh had been created as the Buddhist population in the cold desert region of 59, 146 sq. kms had been demanding it for long . And that the Centre , led by the Narendra Modi’s government with his popular mandate renewed in May 2019 , would not reverse its decisions, and no other party , even the combined strength of the non-BJP parties could not reverse the course of August 5, 2019 when the Centre did away with the special status of J&K and bifurcated it into the two UTs.

The second most important point in its agenda was to protect the land and job rights of the people of J&K , because that was at the core of the demand of the people across the UT, no matter whether they lived in Muslim-majority Kashmir valley , or Hindu -dominated Jammu region . Third, he stressed for early Assembly elections in the territory so that an elected government could bridge the gap between the people and the government.
To some extent , if not fully, the Apni Party and its leadership , succeeded in fulfilling their promise- the jobs up to the UT level civil services have been reserved for the youth of J&K, and the land , more or less , is with the locals . The goal of getting statehood has been complicated by ifs and buts – this would be granted at an appropriate time , with no one knowing what defines appropriateness , Now the statehood depends on elections , and there is no firm date for the polls. This issue too is lost in the ifs and buts.

In these circumstances , Altaf Bukhari’s second term beckons him to face and overcome greater challenges than what he faced during his first term . The start of the Apni Party on the political scene started with the arrival of the Covid-19 epidemic and there were not one but three phases of the killer disease , which kept the people indoors , and imposed many restrictions on the political activities for the sake of the well-being of the masses . But what has gone in party’s favour is that it is not playing on emotions of the people, nor has it adopted confrontational stance with the Centre, though it minces no words in challenging the BJP’s “ all is well” narrative or voicing reservations against the administration’s laws, which sometimes are viewed against public good .

This is the pathway to the future but not without the challenges , because each day from now onwards is full of tests for all political parties, and especially for Apni Party and its leader Altaf Bukhari who are moving with the new brand of politics , where things cannot be left in limbo. All eyes are watching him as to how he navigates these challenges.