Bukhari Demands Statehood, Early Assembly Polls

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Jammu: Apni Party (JKAP) president Syed Altaf Bukhari on Tuesday advocated the early restoration of statehood and holding of assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, asserting that the people desperately need a popular government as the present administration is paralysed.

Bukhari also pitched for the immediate restoration of the 4G internet mobile service, stipend for unemployed educated youth, release of arrested youth and rehabilitation policy for misguided youth who are returning to the mainstream after shunning the path of violence.

Making a fervent appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the former minister said, We are waiting for the fulfillment of the promise made to us from the floor of Parliament that the statehood to J&K would be restored.

We want our identity back, Bukhari, who was flanked by senior party leaders from both Kashmir and Jammu regions, told reporters here after felicitating party candidates and independents who successfully contested the recently held District Development Council (DDC) elections.

He said the prime minister made a promise about the restoration of the statehood to the JKAP delegation when they called on him after formation of the party last year.

Criticising the opponents, he said, our detractors attacked us for our meeting with the prime minister and home minister. There were some who were thinking that statehood will be restored in due course of time but we know it is a hard battle and we have to work jointly to achieve this.

On August 5, 2019, the central government scrapped the special status of J-K under Article 370 and bifurcated it into union territories.

We take the credit for restoring politics in J&K. Politics was said goodbye on August 5, 2019 (when the majority of the leaders including three former chief ministers were detained). We came forward though the decision of August 5 was not in good taste for us as well. The people want restoration of statehood and safeguards for their land and jobs, he said.

Referring to the various PIL’s pending in the Supreme Court challenging the Centre’s move, Bukhari said they are expecting a decision from the Supreme Court which is in accordance with the heart-beat of the people of J&K.

Batting for early assembly elections after the successful conduct of the recently held DDC polls, the JKAP leader said the people want a popular government so that their problems get solved.

We want assembly elections to be held sooner even before the completion of the delimitation process. The delimitation process can complete its work of creating seven more seats. We used to nominate two seats, let it be seven this time around as you have already changed so much and this will make no difference, he said, adding at least people will get a popular government which is responsive, responsible and answerable to them.

He claimed that the present administration is paralysed and both the regions are facing a lack of developmental work and administration inertia.

You (Prime Minister) are told that a lot has happened in J-K over the past two and a half years. For God’s sake, send a team which does not restrict itself to computer presentations and can see practically whether anything had happened, he said.

Bukhari said, “We do not see any development taking place in any of the two regions. Development has come to a grinding halt and the administration is paralysed and restricted to advertisements only. People are facing a lot of problems.

He also demanded a probe into the frequent closure of the Jammu-Srinagar national highway and the ongoing four-laning project.

Jammu-Srinagar highway is the lifeline as far as national security is concerned. Why there should be no CBI probes against engineers and contractors who vandalised the hills overlooking the strategic highway. They should be booked under national security act, he said, adding there was no preparedness of the administration to tackle the situation in the aftermath of the snowfall which is a regular feature during winters.

Referring to the continued snapping of 4G mobile internet services in most of J-K post-August 5 development, he said there is a lot of improvement as far as security scenario is concerned as militancy-related incidents had come down and there was a peaceful DDC election as well so there is no justification in the ban.

Our children are suffering because they are unable to attend online classes. Prime Minister, you are very brave and have a lion’s heart so please give them 4G as they are the future of this country, the JKAP leader said.

He also demanded the release of youth undergoing detention and said now is the time for normalcy and reconciliation .

Those who have gone astray are coming back and need a rehabilitation package, he said and called for a stipend of Rs 10,000 for unemployed educated youth and said they cannot wait for three to four years for reaping the benefits of the recently announced industrial package.

Bukhari also demanded covering of the old unit holders in the new industrial package.

‘J&K With India Because OF Abdullah’s, Mufti’s’

Describing the Abdullah and Mufti families as the “torch bearers” of the national flag in Kashmir Bukhari said he would like to give them full credit for having this region with India.

“I have a lot of respect for both the families (Abdullah and Mufti). They have a contribution not only for this region (J&K) but for the country as a whole,” he told reporters here.

Responding to a question about these leaders’ influence on people with their “emotive slogans”, the former minister said, “I ask myself what was the contribution and the sacrifices of the two families for this country less.

“Is it not a fact that they were the torch bearers of the Indian flag in J&K. If we are with India, it is because of these families – at least one of the families openly and the other covertly. So I would like to give them credit for having this region with this country,” he said.

However, he attacked the Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), an amalgam of seven mainstream parties including National Conference headed by Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP, and claimed that the alliance had crumbled sooner than they expected.

“We never accepted this alliance as a people’s alliance. It was an alliance of the parties for the parties. They had to face the public and thus created a smoke screen. Anything on the foundation of a lie will crumble and it has crumbled sooner than we expected,” he said.

Bukhari thanked the people for voting Apni Party in the recently held District Development Council (DDC) elections and said an overall vote share of 5.5 percent is encouraging for a party which is just nine months old.

“We came before the people with slogans of achievable issues and politics based on truth. We did not raise any emotional slogans as was the practice over the last 72 years,” he said, adding “we could withstand the pressures of all that emotional politics which has been an important ingredient of politics in J&K for the last 72 years.”

In response to another question about the growing rift between the two regions of Jammu and Kashmir over trivial issues, he said both the regions have proved that they are above this politics.

“Had there been a say of the politicians, you could have seen a war. People’s will is running and they have lived for the last 72 years with love and brotherhood and will continue to live in harmony and peace with each other. The people know what some politicians do,” he said.

Bukhari welcomed the tourist arrivals in J&K from different parts of the country but was critical of the government approach.

“No doubt COVID-19 is a challenge but we have to move ahead. The tourists from different parts of the country have started coming on their own. There is no government initiative which is evident from the fact that the air fare between Jammu and Srinagar is selling between Rs 12,000 and Rs 15,000 and outside locations to over Rs 25,000. The government is nowhere and we do not see it,” the JKAP leader alleged.

He also criticised the government for its alleged failure to ensure better coordination among the members of the panchayati raj institutions and government officials.

“We have a serious question whether the government officers are ready to work with the newly-elected DDCs. Have they worked with Block Development Council (BDC) members and panches and sarpanches?” he asked, adding the “answer is no as nobody is ready to listen”.

Bukhari also urged the administration to gear up the official machinery and provide relief to the people affected by the recent incidents of fire and earthquake in the Chenab valley region.

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