Srinagar. Political allegiance is changing very rapidly in Jammu and Kashmir. Not only are mainstream leaders and activists changing loyalties, but even those claiming to be staunch separatists now appear to speak a different language. Switching from one party to another is not new to the leaders of mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir. In the past senior leaders of one party left their party to join another, but it has never happened on such a large scale as today. Ghulam Nabi Azad, one of the most senior politicians of Jammu and Kashmir, left the Congress after 52 years to form his own Democratic Azad Party (DAP).
Other senior Congress leaders Taj Mohiuddin, Tara Chand, G.M. Saroori, Abdul Majeed Wani and others left the Congress to stand with Azad. Senior leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig left Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former PDP ministers, Altaf Bukhari, Sajad Lone, Basharat Bukhari also left PDP. Altaf Bukhari formed his own political party ‘Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party’, Sajjad Lone continued his father’s political party, People’s Conference (PC) and Basharat Bukhari joined Sajjad’s party. Other senior PDP leaders Nizamuddin Bhat and Peerzada Mansoor and Abbas Wani left the PDP and joined Sajjad Lone’s party. Senior Congress leader Abdul Ghani Vakil also joined Sajjad Lone’s PC.
Interestingly, Sajjad’s brother Bilal Lone has been representing the PC in the separatist Hurriyat Conference. Bilal recently visited his native city Handwara and told a gathering of supporters that he would soon take a big step with the support of the people. Clearly, Bilal was revealing his intention to break away from the separatist Hurriyat Conference and join mainstream politics. Now his formal separation from Hurriyat is only a matter of time. Devendra Singh Rana, one of the prominent leaders of the National Conference (NC), quit the party and joined the BJP along with a dozen senior leaders, including former deputy mayor of Jammu Municipal Corporation Dharamveer Singh.
Rana is the younger brother of senior BJP leader and Minister of State (PMO) Dr. Jatinder Singh. Senior NC leader Surjit Singh Salathia also joined BJP along with Devendra Singh Rana. Rana was the provincial president of the NC and it is believed that his departure will cost the party a heavy price during the upcoming assembly elections. Former NC MLA Sheikh Ishfaq Jabbar and his wife Nuzhat Ishfaq, who is the president of District Development Committee Ganderbal, have also practically left the NC and are now awaiting their announcement of joining the BJP. Another senior NC leader Syed Akhun, who is Sheikh Ishfaq Jabbar’s father-in-law, has been thrown out for anti-NC activities by his daughter Nuzhat and son-in-law Ishfaq.
The most surprising thing is that many senior members of the pro-Pakistan Tehreek-e-Hurriyat (formed by the late radical separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani) and Jamaat-e-Islami are secretly trying to escape the action of the security forces. joined the political party. Significantly, there was a time in Kashmir when anyone professing allegiance to any centrist party was considered a socially outcast. Supporters of NC founder Sheikh Mohammed Abdullah, at the behest of his deputy Mirza Afzal Baig, boycotted the funeral of those who stood by India while Sheikh was in jail.
After the abrogation of Article 370, there seems to be a churning of ideologies in Kashmir. Those who once were staunch supporters of independence or claimed Kashmir’s accession to Pakistan have had a sudden change of heart! They now publicly claim that they never supported violence! He has become an advocate of Kashmir’s communal harmony, Sufi tolerance and keeping religion out of politics.