Former Peoples Democratic Party leader Altaf Bukhari on Sunday launched the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party as he vowed to work towards restoring J&K's statehood and ensure domicile rights of people in jobs and education, while saying demoting the state to a Union Territory was "unpleasant and bitter".
The 60-year-old, who is a graduate in agriculture science, announced the formation of the JKAP at his residence and was flanked by former MLAs and senior leaders of political parties like the National Conference, the PDP, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, besides some former Independent legislators.
He was elected president of the JKAP unanimously.
Bukhari said the new party was an outfit "of the commoners, by the commoners and for the commoners".
It is a bare fact that the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir has been passing through tough times since 1990, leading to an unprecedented scenario of death and destruction in the region, he said.
"However, the developments which took place on August 5, 2019, brought some new questions and realities to the fore," Bukhari said, adding that in "an unknown and unimagined situation in the 70-year-long history of free India, a full-fledged state, enjoying an enviable position among its sister states, was demoted to a Union Territory".
On August 5 last year, the Centre withdrew special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated it into union territories Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
The union territories came into existence on October 31 last year.
"Though unpleasant and bitter, it is an undeniable reality that the developments which took place in August 2019, particularly the deprivation of statehood, has badly affected the self-esteem, pride and confidence of the people across Jammu and Kashmir," Bukhari said.
Bukhari, who was a minister in the PDP-BJP government, said the developments have resulted not only in the complete breakdown of political institutions but has also stalled the result oriented and purposeful developmental activities.
"Hence, a sense of aggressive discontentment on one side, and an attitude of complete indifference prevails across Jammu and Kashmir on the other, which at any cost, cannot be left unattended and unaddressed," the businessman-turned-
The people have every reason and right to conceive and envision every shade and aspect of a fully developed and civilised democratic society, a society where they can live in harmony and peace, free from discrimination, exploitation and prejudices of any kind or manner under a democratic system, Bukhari said.
"Our people have had huge sacrifices to their credit for nurturing the democratic spirit and an ever evolving political process in the region. Unfortunately, we never witnessed the desired results of our toil and efforts and instead, we were failed time and again by a particular vested interest class," he said.
"The result is that we are in a situation where we should have not been," the former Jammu and Kashmir finance
The present circumstances warranted the formation of a new political party comprising those who all along had identified and related themselves to the social needs of multiple factions of society, Bukhari said.
He said that the situation demanded "a party that could respond to rational aspirations of the people without promising them the moon or stars".
"We are not here to sell dreams or fantasies to our people, instead shall always be pragmatic, honest and fair in our approach," Bukhari asserted at a press conference.
On abrogation of Article 370, Bukhari said the special status had been eroded and was reduced to a frame only in the last 50 years. "The matter is before the Supreme Court and hence, we have to wait for the verdict," he said.
"However, restoration of statehood, domicile rights in land and jobs, beside a holistic and an equitable development of all regions and sub-regions of Jammu and Kashmir forms the core agenda of the party," Bukhari said.
The JKAP will seek to ensure that the destiny of Jammu and Kashmir is driven by the people while preserving its identity, secure the restoration of statehood and protect domicile rights, especially with respect to disposition of land and employment in government services, he said.
Bukhari said that the party will also seek dignified return of Kashmiri Pandits, empowerment of youths and women, and achieving sustained and regionally balanced economic growth.
The JKAP will also articulate other popular demands of the people that have a bearing on their wellbeing, he said.
Bukhari said his party would be different from other parties as it was not floated by families, in an apparent reference to the NC and the PDP.
He had represented the city's Amirakadal constituency in the last assembly of the erstwhile state of Jammu and
Several former ministers and legislators joined the new outfit and were seen with Bukhari at the press conference.
The prominent faces included former minister and PDP founding member Ghulam Hassan Mir, former minister and PDP general secretary Dilawar Mir and former ministers Chowdhary Zulfiqar Ahmad, Mohammad Ahsraf Mir, Abdul Majeed Paddar, Aijaz Ahmad Khan and Usman Majeed, besides former chief secretary and ex-NC MLC Vijay Bakaya.
"We have resolved to create a viable, political platform that functions in accordance with the wishes of the people, and where the people are the real stakeholders of the political process," Bukhari said.
He made it clear that the party was not power hungry and wanted to work for the common people."I do not see elections happening anytime soon. It may take at least a year or so. Let us work for the people till then," Bukhari said.