Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party President Syed Mohammad Altaf Bukhari during a rally in Srinagar
The first large political rally in Srinagar after Jammu and Kashmir was stripped of its statehood and special status had a message for Prime Minister Narendra Modi: restore statehood and hold elections without any further delay.
At Srinagar’s Sher-e- Kashmir International Cricket Stadium, thousands attended a rally organised by Jammu and Kashmir Apni party this morning. The chief of the party, Altaf Bukahri, said such a large gathering wants Prime Minister to fulfil the promise that he made to the people.
“All these people have come here with a demand that Prime minister should restore our state. Mr Prime Minister, this is your promise and also a promise made by the Home Minister – kindly restore the statehood of J&K as it existed on august 5, 2019,” said Mr Bukahri.
Apni Party was formed with the tacit backing of the central government following the revocation of Article 370 when all senior leaders of regional parties were in jail. Since then, political activities by regional parties have been badly affected.
Apni Party, which is often dismissed as the ‘B-team of BJP’ in Kashmir by the regional parties, said the large gathering is a message to their rivals in Kashmir and also powers in Delhi.
The party had made massive mobilisation across the Valley and was expecting around 50,000 people at the rally. Even though the number of people who turned up at the venue was far less than the expected number, it was still the largest public meeting by any party in Kashmir since August 2019.
Following the abrogation of special status on August 5,2019, a massive clampdown, prolonged restrictions, communication blockade, and detention of thousands of people and political leaders had frozen politics in Kashmir.
The formation of Apni Party was to revive political activities and create an alternative to the traditional parties like the National Conference and the PDP.
In his address, Mr Bukhari strongly spoke against the violence in Kashmir where thousands have been killed over the last 30 years of the separatist movement. He told the gathering that they should accept that their destiny lies with India and they should not allow themselves to be misled by anybody.
“We all have to accept that J&K’s destiny lies with India. We suffered due to India but it’s India alone that can apply a balm. So, my appeal to all of you is please don’t allow yourself to be misled by hollow slogans by some leaders” said Mr Bukhari.
Jammu and Kashmir is without an elected government for more than four years. During his recent visit to Jammu and Kashmir, Home Minister Amit Shah announced that elections will be held after the revision of electoral rolls – which will be completed this month.
So ahead of possible assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, Mr Bukahari also announced freebies if his party is elected to power.
He promised 500 units of free electricity; four refills of LPG cylinders to every household. Rs 5000 old age pension and Rs one lakh marriage assistance.