A new experiment in Kashmir | Editorial HT – editorials
Since the annulment of article 370 and the reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) last August, political activity in the new Union Territory (UT) has stalled, with the arrest of leaders and restrictions (now substantially reduced) in communication and connectivity. In this context, the formation of a new political party in J&K deserves attention. Former PDP leader Syed Altaf Bukhari organized the J&K Apni Party, with the stated goal of providing aid to UT residents and building trust with Delhi. In a democracy, establishing a political party is a right, and the exercise of this right in the void in J&K is welcome.
But the future of the Apni Party will depend substantially on whether it can truly represent the views, voices, complaints, and aspirations of the J&K people. Bukhari is speculated to have political support from Delhi. This will pose a credibility crisis for him, as Kashmir policy has often revolved around taking a firm stand against Delhi. This is not necessarily good, and Kashmir itself has lost a lot due to this binary. But if the Apni Party is perceived as a voice of the Indian state, instead of being seen as a voice of Kashmir, it will not succeed in winning popular support. The fact that Bukhari has been allowed to organize a party, even when three former chief ministers remain detained, adds to the perception that Delhi is playing favorites and is trying to design a particular political outcome. The Center must allow ideas and political formations to evolve organically, even when it creates an environment where all democratic leaders are free and can present their ideas at J&K, even those unpleasant for New Delhi.