NEW DELHI : Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party President Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari on Thursday participated in the All Party meeting called by the Prime Minister at his residence in New Delhi.
During the meeting, Bukhari expressed gratitude to the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister for initiating a much needed political dialogue with all shades of the political spectrum in Jammu and Kashmir.
At the outset of his speech, Bukhari said: “We are here to put our heads together and to agree on certain things and to differ on many but at the end of this meeting I hope we will be able to arrive at a sustainable and meaningful roadmap keeping in view the best interests and the welfare of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
Giving a brief background of Apni Party, he said that its formation was based upon the necessity of rising up from a tumultuous situation and speaking up for the people of Jammu and Kashmir at a time when the people of J&K deemed themselves totally helpless and unrepresented.
He said that it was Apni Party’s meeting with the top leadership of the country including Prime Minister that assuaged many pressing socio-political and economic issues and ensured the release of 718 people including some top politicians and workers.
Bukhari said that Apni Party’s paramount demands have been restoration of Statehood, early assembly elections, delimitation on merit and constitutional mechanism that protects the rights of residents of J&K on their land, jobs and natural resources besides expediting the hearing of the Supreme Court on Article 370 and 35-A. He also stressed on need for augmentation of infrastructure in Education, Health, Power, Jal Shakti, Tourism, Hospitality, Agriculture, Horticulture and Industrial sectors to boost the distressed economy in J&K.
“We adopted an honest political approach both in Delhi and J&K wherein we expressed our belief that only the two main forums in the country—Parliament and the Judiciary are the custodian of peoples’ constitutional rights and which were done away with in Jammu and Kashmir unilaterally,” he pleaded.
He expressed gratitude to the Prime Minister and Union Home Minister for addressing most of the demands including the reservation of jobs and protection of rights on land holdings of the residents of J&K put forth by the Apni Party during the last two years.
Bukhari stressed on the urgent demands of the people calling for confidence building political measures that will set in motion a genuine democratic exercise in Jammu and Kashmir.
He emphasized on fulfillment of the promises made by the country’s leadership on the floor of Parliament vis-à-vis restoration of Statehood.
Besides other issues, the main demands which were raised by Apni Party President during the All Party meeting included:
Constitutional safeguards for protection of land and jobs in J&K
The August 5 decisions have left indelible marks on the psyche of the people of Jammu and Kashmir especially with regard to their special rights on employment under Government services; acquisition of immovable property; settlement in the State and, of course, defining such residents.
Bukhari vehemently argued for a tangible legal and constitutional mechanism to be put in place to safeguard these privileges of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. He pleaded that the government needs to instill a sense of belief among the people of Jammu and Kashmir on this important issue of their identity that was enshrined in the constitution of India.
Restoration of Statehood
Statehood is a reference to the glorious past and a privilege for solidification of the idea of pluralism and respectful coexistence in Jammu and Kashmir like any other State in the country.
In order to keep up this spirit and allow a cultural mosaic to continue, Bukhari demanded restoration of Statehood as per the commitment made by the country’s top leadership on the floor of Parliament.
Early hearing of Supreme Court on petition for Articles 370 and 35-A
Bukhari said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir wish and aspire for an early hearing of the Supreme Court in petition on Articles 370 and 35-A. He urged that the central government must ensure that the solicitor general of India has no objections in parties seeking pre-ponement of the hearing of the matter.
Holding of Assembly Elections at an earliest
The governor administration in J&K may have tried its best to deliver but people still feel alienated and one of the major and justifiable reasons is that they are deprived of their democratic rights to decide their own fate. No bureaucratic set-up can replace or prove to be a dependable substitute to an elected government. Bukhari said that People in J&K feel helpless, dejected and at odds with the administrative set-up and want elections to be held so that their problems are addressed on priority.
As the decision of holding elections is taken by the election commission of India in consultation with the union government to review the security scenario as one of the essential conditions for reviewing timing of polls, Bukhari said the union government must acknowledge that the overall atmosphere is conducive for holding of elections.
Delimitation on Merit and No Demographic changes
The process of delimitation is still being viewed as a politically motivated exercise which has raised many concerns in Jammu and Kashmir.
Bukhari said that People are concerned that adjustment of boundaries and description of the extent of parliamentary constituencies has been thrust to pit one region against other for some political mileage!
This serious issue needs to be addressed, he said, pleading that the delimitation exercise must be based on merit and demographic rationale.
Empowerment of Panchayat Raj institutions and Urban Local Bodies in letter and spirit
The basic purpose of 73rd and 74th amendment to the constitution fails when the elected representatives at the grassroots level feel alienated and disempowered. Bukhari said that the government of India must address this issue and ensure proper decentralization of administrative and financial powers to the elected Panchayat Raj Institution (PRI) and Urban Local Bodies (ULB) institutions in letter and spirit keeping in view the clauses of 73rd and 74th amendment to the constitution.
Constitutional protection of rights of locals on natural resources
The essence of the constitution preserves the rich diversity of this country and a fundamental step in this direction is to accord constitutional protection to the locals over their natural resources. Bukhari said that a feeling of isolation among locals in J&K who feel deprived of their legal rights over natural resources needs to be addressed on priority.
Inter-Regional connectivity through all weather roads and tunnels/Cap on airfare
The dilapidated condition of Jammu-Srinagar National Highway—being the Valley’s only land connectivity with rest of the country, has been a source of perpetual distress for the people of the region especially during winters.
Bukhari pleaded the National Highway between Srinagar-Jammu needs to be developed urgently for a hassle free connectivity between the two divisions.
Similarly, Bukhari added that the government of India needs to focus on inter-regional connectivity across Jammu and Kashmir. Making Mughal road an all weather road by construction of a much needed tunnel besides developing Sinthan Top will provide a dependable alternative to the people of J&K to travel between the two capitals of J&K. Similarly, there is a dire need of construction of a tunnel at Sadhna top for hassle free connectivity in North Kashmir.
The perpetual closure of the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway gives rise to the sky rocketing hike in airfare. The civil aviation ministry needs to put a cap on airfare from Jammu-Srinagar and vice versa and Jammu & Kashmir with the rest of the country because of its harsh climatic conditions. This will not only boost and promote the tourism sector but will also provide a sigh of relief to the people of J&K who suffer immensely because of exorbitant airfares.
Formulation of a Youth Policy
During the meeting, Bukhari laid emphasis on the government of India to come up with a comprehensive policy that can absorb lakhs of unemployed skilled and unskilled youth in Jammu and Kashmir. He also pleaded for revocation of the government’s recent decision of scrapping the age relaxation clause of domicile of J&K who aspire to qualify UPSC exams.
J&K’s Youth Empowerment should be the prime goal for any political dispensation in the centre. Bukhari added that unfortunately there is a general perception among J&K youth that they are not a priority for the country’s leadership.
He invited the attention of the Prime Minister to facilitate an industrial environment in J&K wherein the country’s top industries can set up infrastructure thereby addressing its rising unemployment problem.