Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party
|Chairperson||Harsh Dev Singh|
|Founded||23 March 1982|
|Headquarters||17 VP House, Rafi Marg, New Delhi-110001|
|ECI Status||State Party|
The Jammu & Kashmir National Panthers Party is a state political party in Jammu and Kashmir, India. The party was founded on 23 March 1982 by Prof. Bhim Singh and a few prominent youth political personalities of the time including Jay Mala, former President of the Indian Students Congress. Its aim is to "demolish corruption, communalism, criminalization, drug menace" and to establish a real democracy through ultimate revolution.
In 1996 the party was notable in moving the Supreme Court and the Election Commission to return the democratic process to militancy-torn Jammu and Kashmir.
The party formed part of the coalition government of Jammu & Kashmir along with the Congress and PDP after the 2002 Jammu & Kashmir elections, winning all seats in the Udhampur district, with Harsh Dev Singh serving as education minister in the cabinet.
The party was founded by Bhim Singh in 1982 as a split from the Indian National Congress. At the time, Bhim Singh was a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly with the Congress party. Bhim Singh had differences with the Congress party's alliance with the National Conference party of Sheikh Abdullah. In particular, the Panther's Party was founded in reaction to Sheikh Abdullah's Resettlement Act.
The manifesto of the party focused on secular, nationalist and democratic principles, while seeking to respect the diversity of cultures and religions in the state including Ladakh, Jammu and Kashmir.
On its formation in 1983 the Panther's Party contested all the 50 seats in Jammu & Kashmir. However it won only one seat of Bhim Singh. Bhiim Singh faced stiff opposition from the powerful Congress Party and the ruling Nehru-Gandhi dynasty of India in his constituency of Chenani.
A month after its formation, in April 1982, the name of the party was questioned in the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly by the Chief Minister, Sheikh Abdullah who had asked "Bhim Singh you were all right as a human being. Why you chose to be an animal?" Prof. Bhim Singh had then responded that "the people of State were terrorized by a big animal, known as Sher-e-Kashmir (Lion of Kashmir was Abdullah's nickname). They needed safety and protection from that lion. It was necessary to become an animal (Panther) to resist the lion."
Bhim Singh, MLA v. State of Jammu and Kashmir, 1985
On August 17, 1985 Bhim Singh was suspended from the opening of the budget session of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly that was scheduled for September 11. He subsequently challenged the suspension in the Jammu and Kashmir High Court. After his suspension was stayed by High Court on September 9, Bhim Singh was illegally detained and arrested by the police on route to Srinagar. After attempts to locate him proved futile his wife and advocate Jay Mala then moved the court to locate Bhim Singh. The court ruled that there "certainly was a gross violation of Shri Bhim Singh's constitutional rights" and condemned the "authoritarian acts of the police." The judges stated that they were in no doubt that the top levels of the Government of Jammu and Kashmir where ultimately responsible.
The Supreme Court in a landmark judgement that impacted tort law in India, awarded Bhim Singh a compensation of fifty thousands rupees for his illegal detention and false imprisonment by the police. Bhim Singh had left jail with a fractured leg and claimed during his false imprisonment the police and state agencies had made an attempt on his life.
Udhampur MP By-Election, 1988
At the conclusion of the count on 19 June 1988, Panthers Party leader, Bhim Singh was announced as the winner of the Udhampur by-election by 32,000 votes. However, the Union Home Minister of India, Buta Singh had dispatched Dr. Bhalla, Secretary of the Election Commission by a Home Ministry aircraft to Jammu. Dr. Bhalla ordered the Returning Officer, S.P. Kazal to refer the count result to the Election Commission of India in New Delhi. On June 25, 1988 Peri Shastri the Chief Election Commissioner in New Delhi declared the Congress Party candidate Mohd. Ayub Khan instead as the winner by 2,376 votes. The Returning Officer was later found to have committed suicide with no known motive.
Bhim Singh filled a review petition against the order of the Election Commission of India, stating the declared result was rigged at the instance of Rajiv Gandhi and Farooq Abdullah, leaders of the ruling coalition parties. Atal Behari Vajpayee joined Bhim Singh on hunger strike in front of the Election Commission offices in protest to the vote rigging. The Jammu and Kashmir High Court ruled in favour of Bhim Singh, however when Justice K.K. Gupta delivered the judgement four years later on 15 October 1992, the relevant session of parliament stood dissolved already.
Bhim Singh later wrote in his book the Murder of Democracy in Jammu and Kashmir, that he had intervened to pacify a crowd of his supporters at the time despite it costing him the result. As he feared an outbreak of violence at the count venue could have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians by the heavily armed police present there due to escalation an in the insurgency in Jammu and Kashmir.
Jammu and Kashmir state assembly 2002-2008
In the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly elections in 2002 the Panthers Party won four seats. The party won all three seats in the Udhampur district. Udhampur was won by Balwant Singh. Chenani was won by SH Faquir Nath and Ramnagar by Harsh Dev Singh. The other seat was in Samba, Jammu won by Yash Paul. Harsh Dev Singh served as the Education Minister in the coalition government. In 2007, Bhim Singh withdrew support to the Congress Party lead coalition, citing differences with the Peoples Democratic Party. The government fell soon after when the PDP itself withdrew their support from the Congress Party during the Amarnath land transfer controversy, placing the state under direct rule of the Indian central government for a few month prior to the Jammu and Kashmir state assembly elections, 2008.
Demand for President's Rule 2016
In reaction to the escalating violence and blindings from anti-riot pellet guns in the valley during the 2016 Kashmir Unrest, the Panthers Party through the Supreme Court of India had attempted to dissolve the government by imposition of Governor's rule. On 22 August, while the court denied the party's attempt, it ordered the solicitor general to arrange a meeting between the Panthers Party leader, Bhim Singh and Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the issue. During the case Bhim Singh had stated that "pellet guns from Israel are used against the Kashmiris. This is a crime." Three days later, Home Minister of India, Rajnath Singh traveled to Kashmir and met with a three-member delegation of the Panthers Party promising to end the use of pellet guns. On 19 September, Bhim Singh meet Narendra Modi for the first time since the latter had become Prime Minister. A day after, the Supreme Court asked it's Registry to consider listing Bhim Singh's second demand for President's rule for an earlier hearing.
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It was the Bhim Singh-led JKNPP which moved the Supreme Court to hold elections in the militancy-torn Jammu and Kashmir in the historic year 1996. The Chief Election Commission of India was persuaded to conduct elections in the state, only due to the efforts of JKNPP.
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