In a time marked by political discontent in Jammu and Kashmir, triggered by the loss of statehood and abrogation of Article 370, the BJP is trying to reshape people’s perception of the party. Leading that charge mechanism is a group of highly educated Muslims in —Farida Khan, Darakhan Andrabi, Hina Bhat, Parvaz Chauhan, and Ramisa Rafiq Wani. Their work stands out in comparison with the party’s male leaders in the union territory, who are busy bickering and framing factions.
Farida Khan hails from Seloo in Sopore Baramula—once a hot bed of militancy. She is party secretary in J&K and chairperson of the Block Development Council in Sopore. She boats a triple master’s degree in (political science, sociology, economics) and a PhD in economics. She began her political journey in 2013 and was an elected BDC chairperson 2019.
Khan has provided housing to underprivileged individuals through Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana, and is now focussing on finishing the Rs 4-crore Jal Jeeven project in Boripura. “It is an important project and will resolve persistent water crisis in Sopore”, she said. After a drug addict killed her his mother, she initiated various de—addiction programmes and set up the rehabilitation centre in Sopore. Recently, she got funds for a hospital worth Rs75 lakhs in Boningoo. “I work in collaboration with government officials to address grievances expeditiously”, she said.
But working with the government comes with challenges. On March 30, 2021, Khan was on her way from Srinagar to a BDC meeting in Sopore Municipal Council when the Chairman of the Sopore Municipal Council called her, asking her to attend a municipal council meeting. She reached the venue of the Council meeting but “thought it would be better to attend the BDC meeting first as I was the host drove away”. The last minute decision saved her life. Minutes later, militants attacked venue—a councillor and a special police officer was injured. The militants escaped.
But that incident has not deterred Khan from continuing her work. She believes that focusing on the youth will bring prosperity and change on ground, and credits the BJP for letting her work freely.
This sentiment is shared by other women leaders. Darakhshan Andrabi, for instance, became the first Kashmiri—along with Union Minister Jitendra ,Singh—to be appointed the BJP national executive in 2021. She joined politics at 19 and launched the Socialist Democratic Party which contested several elections but failed to make an impression. Her political career got a boost after she merged her party with the BJP in 2013. In 2014, Andrabi locked horns with National Conference chief minister Omar Abdullah in the Sonawar constituency, but lost. She was made chairperson of the education and women’s welfare committee 2016.
In 2022, the Union Government formed two Waqf boards— one in Jammu and Kashmir, and one in Ladakh under Central Wakf Act, in 1995. Prior to this, all wakf properties were registered with J&K state wakf council and Muslim Specified Waqfs Board. Andrabi was made chairperson of waqf Board in Jammu and Kashmir. She made sweeping changes in managing the board’s 3,500 properties, including shrines, commercial complexes and schools. Under the new rules, mujavirs (caretakers) at all shrines were let go, and donations at the shrines were prohibited, evoking criticism from political parties. Andrabi defended the move saying mujavirs would often force people to donate.
“We have initiated reforms and 80 per of the people have supported him”, said Andrabi. “I am not afraid of the opposition. Politicians raised a hue and cry but that only motivated. We dismantled all committees and only the Wakf Board remains.” The board is now working to build a hospital in Srinagar and improve the standard of schools under it. (IPA Service)