Launching his regional party — called the Democratic Azad Party (DAP) — former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on Monday appealed the people in both Jammu division and the Kashmir Valley to dismantle “artificial walls” being created between them, as they have depended on each other for centuries.
In a Union Territory divided on regional and also sub-regional lines between different communities, Azad, through his party’s name and its flag, has tried to address many constituencies in one go across both divisions.
By choosing the first day of the Navratras to launch the party, he has tried to establish a connect with the people of Jammu division, comprising 43 Assembly constituencies, of which at least 30 are predominantly inhabited by people from Hindu communities who are considered pro-BJP. With the words “democratic” and “azad” in the party, he appears to be trying to reassure people in both regions that DAP will have its own independent ideology and line of thinking.
Azad, who quit the Congress exactly a month ago, said programmes and policies of his party will get people “freedom from corruption, unemployment and nepotism”.
Addressing supporters, he said the party will not criticise political opponents, as they are not “our enemies”. Azad, the former Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, said: “We will draw a line between enemies and political opponents…we will propagate our own policies and programmes (without spreading negativity about opponents). In a democracy, people are the ultimate masters, and it is up to them to support any party’s policies and programmes.”
On inter-dependence of Jammu and Kashmir divisions, Azad said that during the erstwhile Darbar move, when the civil secretariat and other government offices moved to Jammu and Srinagar for six months each in a year, arrival of people from the Valley during winter boosted business activities in Jammu region, and vice versa. “After abrogation of Article 370 and downgrading of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, when I had come to the Union Territory following permission from the Supreme Court, I was told that the transport and business here (in Jammu) had been badly hit,’’ he said.
He said he found nearly 70 per cent of the industrial units in Kathua, Samba and Jammu regions closed, as their products mainly had markets in the Valley, he said. “Even I was not aware of that. I had the impression that industrial units in Kathua sent their products to neighboring Punjab, but they said they had their market in Kashmir,’’ he added.
This, he said, “means lakhs of our people employed in industries in Kathua, Samba and Jammu districts are dependent on Kashmir. I appeal to people of both regions to fill the wedge by breaking the artificial walls created between them. This will also benefit Kashmir.”
Referring to Kashmir, he said fruit growers are facing a huge problem in the Valley these days. Although they have had a bumper crop, and tourist season, this year after being adversely hit in the last couple of years, their produce is not reaching the markets in Delhi and elsewhere in the country since many trucks are stuck, he said.
To address the current impasse, Azad urged the UT administration and the traffic police to give the same priority for a month to movement of apple-laden trucks from Kashmir as is given to ambulances.
He also appealed the UT administration to pay adequate compensation to the people of Jammu in Kandi and far-flung areas whose standing crops have been damaged due to rain and flash floods.
Explaining the party flag, he said the three colours in DAP’s flag — mustard, white and dark blue — carry a message each.
According to Azad, the mustard-coloured strip symbolises creativity, power to think independently and unity in diversity and the white means peace and harmony, “the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi”. The blue strip in the flag, he explained, represents the party’s ideology to give people an open space and freedom to think, besides building tolerance and imagination as deep as the sea and as high as the blue sky.
Azad said his party will have internal democracy and power will not be confined to one or a few persons at the top.
Prominent among political leaders present at Monday’s event with Azad were former deputy CM Tara Chand, former ministers G M Saroori, Abdul Majid Wani, R S Chib, Manohar Lal Sharma and Jugal Sharma, former deputy chairman of erstwhile State Legislative Council Arvinder Singh Micky, former MLC Naresh Gupta, former advocate general Aslam Goni, besides senior former Congress leaders Maheshwar Singh, Vinod Mishra, and Balwan Singh.