J&K’s New Political Party Nobody Knows the ‘Leaders’ of – JKPM(I)
Why were these ‘unknown’ five men allowed to hold a press conference in Srinagar?
On Monday, 9 September, a group of five Kashmiris claimed to have floated a new mainstream political party by the title of Jammu and Kashmir Political Movement (I).
They refused to take questions over scrapping of Article 370 and 35-A, held the traditional ‘regional parties’ responsible for every problem, advocated for protection of domicile rights for residents of the new Union Territory and demanded restoration of communication lines and release of youths.
However, nobody in Kashmir or Jammu seems to know anything about the group that was granted special permission by the Governor’s administration to address an assembly of journalists at the government’s makeshift Media Centre, set up by the Information Department for briefings of senior officers at a private hotel behind the United Nations Military Observer Group for India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) summer headquarters.
Former Militant to Neta?
The president of the party, Dr Shahid Khan, claimed that for some time he had worked as a journalist. His associates were introduced as Advocate Raja Ashraf, Omar Ahmad, Asif Abdullah and Mushtaq Ahmad Tantray.
Mustaq Ahmad Tantray is, apparently, a former militant who had become a counterinsurgent and finally joined as an activist of the Congress party.
Khan blamed “previous regimes and political parties” for running politics of manipulation and alleged that the same had acted as “dual characters” and pushed the people of Jammu and Kashmir into an unending quagmire for decades.
“They are the reason for every problem which the people of Jammu and Kashmir are facing today”, Khan asserted without naming any leaders or parties. He urged the Centre to protect the domicile rights of the residents and introduce social securities. Khan demanded restoration of the telecommunication lines and impressed upon New Delhi to disallow any industry that could generate hazardous pollution and harm ecological balance.
‘Gullible’ Govt Doesn’t Know These New Leaders
Sustained efforts to trace the members of the group thereafter failed as nobody seemed to know anything about the unfamiliar faces. Principal Secretary and Government’s designated spokesperson Rohit Kansal told The Quint that Director of Information had permitted the group to address the mediapersons after verifying antecedents of the five individuals. “I was told that they were from the community of Panches and Sarpanches. But I am not sure and can tell you anything after catching up with Director of Information”, Mr Kansal asserted.
Director of Information, Dr Syed Sehrish Asgar, said that the leader of the group had appeared with an application, seeking permission to address the mediapersons after he had failed to find the facility as Srinagar Press Club functional. “He claimed that he had worked as a journalist with Hindustan Times. When I checked with my subordinate officers, they confirmed that Mr Khan had worked as a reporter with HT. After we were reasonably sure that they were genuinely Kashmiris and had launched a mainstream political party, we permitted them to interact with the media”, Dr Sehrish said.
Nobody Recognises These Five Men
However, President of J&K Panch and Sarpanch Association Shafiq Mir claimed that none of the five had ever been a Panch or a Sarpanch. “They are not even remotely linked to the association of Panches and Sarpanches. We are aware that they have held a press conference in Srinagar but none of us has ever heard these names or seen such faces”, Mr told The Quint.
A journalist with Hindustan Times, who has covered Jammu and Kashmir, said from her New Delhi office that she and her colleagues had never seen anybody in the organisation by that name. “I asked my seniors. They all denied to know anything about this man”, she asserted.
Srinagar-based journalists maintained invariably that they knew nothing about the political or media credentials of the JKPM (I) President Shahid Khan.
Most of the leaders from different political parties have been incommunicado while being either under house arrest or in detention at SKICC here after annulment of J&K’s special status on 5 August. Those who could be reached by landline phones maintained on the condition of anonymity that they had seen such faces and heard such names for the first time. Nobody responded to phone calls from the residences of senior Congress leaders Prof Saifuddin Soz and Ghulam Nabi Mir Lasjan.
(The writer is a Srinagar-based senior journalist. He can be reached@ahmedalifayyaz.)
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