Six regional and national political parties including NC, PDP and Congress announced that they were coming together to fight for the restoration of Article 370 in J&K
Not content with anti-national, seditious, pro-separatist Gupkar Declaration signed on August 04, 2019, a day before the historical announcement of Modi Government, the six leaders of Kashmir centric political parties including the descendant of Indian National Congress, Nehru-Gandhi Congress, have again issued a new joint declaration in Srinagar reiterating their commitment to the original declaration. Gupkar Declaration 2.0 apart from reiterating their faith in the original version has raised many questions. Interestingly, signatories to both the declarations are from a particular community and a specific region. None from the Jammu region has been associated with these two declarations which spell out inherent dissension and lack of coherence within these parties.
Gupkar Declaration 1.0 was a veiled warning cum threat to the central government to not to tinker with the “special status” (a misnomer) of Jammu & Kashmir granted by divisive and discriminatory articles 370 and 35A of the Indian Constitution terming them as a “bridge” between New Delhi and Srinagar. Firstly, the term “special status” used by these leaders is grossly misrepresenting because this phrase has not been mentioned anywhere in the Constitution of India. The authors of the Constitution never wanted to accord any special status to J&K. Still, they were compelled to include a temporary provision in the form of Article 370 due to prevailing uncertainty at that time.
Article 370 had to go one day, because it had been delayed for too long, emboldening the separatists and terrorists. Farooq Abdullah had openly exhorted the Hurriyat to lead the fight for Azadi. After the killing of Burhan Wani, most of the so-called mainstream political parties began to veer towards local terrorists who openly demanded Islamisation of the Valley. It forced the Modi Government to act sooner than later which it did the next morning of Gupkar Declaration 1.0 ignoring the ganging up of the Kashmiri leaders.
The events that followed are recent and well known. The Gupkar signatories were shocked to see the public response. As envisaged by them, there were no protests and street riots. On the contrary, people welcomed their detention and prayed to New Delhi to ignore them. After one year of wilderness, one time rulers and kingmakers now robbed of their livelihood and status the so-called mainstream politicians from Valley have come together once again openly challenging the New Delhi’s actions of August 05, 2019, and thereafter and vowing to fight together for the restoration of special status, 370 & 35A, restoration of statehood, separate Constitution and Flag. This declaration is nothing but a political gimmick meant to signify their struggle for political survival. Those who till yesterday were fighting each other for loaves of power have come together now sensing an existential threat. Congress, like the regional parties, is trying to sail in two boats but is destined to sink along with its partners.
Gupkar Declaration 2.0 talks of “the unfortunate events of August 05, 2019, have unrecognisably changed the relationship between J&K and New Delhi.” What relationship are they talking about? J&K is, was and will always be an integral part of India. In fact, now all the walls and barriers that prevented its full integration with the nation have been demolished bringing cheers to all Indians, especially those who had been a victim of these barriers.
While condemning the various measures announced by the government post-August 05 as unconstitutional and measures of disempowerment, challenging the basic identity of the people of J&K, also raised a question “who we are?” Once again, there is an inherent contradiction in their conviction. While they maintain Article 35A, that was surreptitiously added in the Constitution without being passed by the Parliament, as “Constitutional”, they allege the legislation passed by both houses of Parliament on 05th and 06th August as “Unconstitutional.” Incidentally, Farooq and two of his colleagues are members of the same Parliament.
Gupkar 2.0 vows to fight for the restoration of abrogated articles which appears a far-fetched dream but would provide enough fodder for the status quo lobby to misguide the Kashmiris and keep the pot boiling. In other words, they are looking to legitimate their relevance via the route chosen by the separatists
As far as identity and “Who we are”, there is no doubt in any body’s mind that we are Indians and our identity is also Indian, everything else is subservient to that. There is a hidden intent behind asking “who we are”; it is not about identity but status. New Delhi has answered this query by maintaining a stoic silence on the joint statement and not considering it fit enough to be acknowledged by New Delhi. In fact, the Modi Government had conveyed this curt message to many of these leaders well before August 05. By ignoring their threats and boycott of the Panchayat elections and successfully conducting them, New Delhi had shown them their place and status as far as Modi Government’s road map for Kashmir was concerned. Hence Gupkar Declaration 2.0 is more about judging their relevance in the changed scenario since the public response has also been very lukewarm.
Why I term it a political gimmick is because it displays nothing but the bankruptcy of political issues. New Delhi has answered most of the issues raised in Gupkar Declaration through its actions. It warned against state’s trifurcation, and the government has already affected the bifurcation of the state. It warned against tinkering with 370 and 35A, these have already been made ineffective and abrogated. It showed concern about fresh Delimitation, the government has already ordered the Delimitation Commission with seven additional constituencies, and the process is underway. Gupkar 2.0 vows to fight for the restoration of abrogated articles which appears a far-fetched dream but would provide enough fodder for the status quo lobby to misguide the Kashmiris and keep the pot boiling. In other words, they are looking to legitimate their relevance via the route chosen by the separatists. One must admire the shifting goalposts of the National Conference which under the Sheikh harboured the idea of independence, followed by the demand of Greater Autonomy under the Farooq-Omar duo and now the restoration of 370 under Dr Farooq Abdullah.
As far as the restoration of statehood is concerned, it is a futile demand because the Centre has assured on a number of occasions that the statehood would be restored at the appropriate time. By now, they should have realised and understood that the present government is not going to succumb to their pressure and threats that may hasten the process.
The timing of the declaration has raised a big question mark since it comes at a time when India’s enemies China and Pakistan are strategising their collusion to pose a two-front challenge threatening our sovereignty. Both China and Pakistan will love the Valley to be in turmoil at the same time. The signatories need to explain the logic of adding the para exhorting the leadership of subcontinent “to take due notice of the ever-increasing skirmishes at the LAC and LOC” and work for enduring peace in the region if their intention is only to restore 370 and statehood. By doing so, they have overstepped their jurisdiction. What was expected of them was a strong condemnation of both China and Pakistan but on the contrary, they chose to meddle in nation’s external affairs at a time when the whole country needs to be united and stand together. Also, by observing August 15 as Black Day and boycotting Independence Day functions, these leaders had made their loyalty suspicious.
The declaration ends with a reiteration “nothing about us without us.” Suppose this reiteration is confined to the six signatories. In that case, one has no objection since they need it to remain politically relevant though their ships have either already sunk or are fast sinking. But they hold no authority to say so on behalf of the people of J&K because they do not enjoy their mandate.
Unfortunately, the Jammu leadership of these parties has surrendered to their Kashmiri masters. They neither have the courage nor will to challenge their whims and fancies, including statements that harmful for people of Jammu. The demand of certain sections of civil society in Jammu for a joint Jammu Declaration from the Jammu based leaders of these parties opposing the Gupkar Declaration will remain a distant dream because lucrative party posts defining their local status are dearer to them than safeguarding the interests of Jammu. Individually they are adept at making loud statements and ‘dharna cum poster politics’ but are unwilling for a collective struggle because that would be thorny demanding sacrifices and struggle.
Gupkar Declaration 2.0 is a simple Kashmir centric effort for the old guard struggling hard to remain afloat and politically relevant.
They, fortunately, enjoy the support of the liberal left and the Lutyens media and Khan Market gang which enjoy supporting divisive voices.
(The writer is a Jammu based veteran, political analyst, columnist, security and strategic analyst. The views expressed are entirely personal)