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Kashmiri Political Chutzpah: Before Gupkar Declaration, it was autonomy

Kashmiris don’t believe;  the father, the son, the daughter, big brother’s brother  and their crosstitutes

Kamran Ashraf Bhat ( @kamranarshrafbhat

Srinagar : Yesterday’s foes today’s allies , Mehbooba Mufti, national conference and big brother’s brother, Sajad lone have come together on a single piece of paper for restoring status quo of UT of Jammu and Kashmir. 

On 5 August 2019, the Government of India revoked the special status, or limited autonomy, granted under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir, a region administered by India as a state which consists of the larger part of Kashmir which has been the subject of dispute among India, Pakistan, and China.

The bonhomie between these parties came to sense at the time when they  emerged with an understanding, ‘ Guphkar declaration’  in which they have taken a decision to fight for the restoration of article 370. 

In their first meeting since the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, the signatories of the Gupkar Declaration, formed a new alliance with an aim to restore J&K’s constitutional status as it existed before August 5, last year.

“We have named this alliance as the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration. Our battle is a constitutional battle and we want the government of India to return to the people of the State the rights they held before 5th Aug 2019. We aim to restore J&K’s constitutional status as it existed before Aug 5 last year,” former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah said after the meeting of the signatories, Indian Express reported.

Parties including the NC, PDP, CPI(M), PC, JKPM and ANC are part of the newly constituted alliance.

But, for common Kashmiris, this romance carries no trust and is just fugazi.  Mehvish  Khan, A student of political science, termed this alliance as unholy and supposed to hit its dead end,after they will get their rooms heated. “Are we fools, what are they thinking and trying to establish with this drama.  For a moment, have they ever tried to make good faith without any agenda in their minds? They are trying to make us believe that, mainstream is still the choice of masses but the situation is different. We have seen a transition in their narratives, whenever they get in a good mood with Delhi if Delhi keeps them in knot; they praise them like lost love. When Delhi divorces them, they start soft separatism,” said Mehvish.

Giving back statehood is not going to happen any time soon. The same course of action will be held  on one  condition i.e delimitation. Government of India has geared up preparations for the process of delimitation which will directly affect on the electoral layout.

The election commission is already started work on assignment given by Government to increase the pace towards redrawing the constituencies for the new union territory as well as four north-eastern states by March 2021.

“The government has given us a timeline of one year starting from March 2020. So, the outer limit is one year. We are on course to do it within the given timeframe for all four north-eastern states and J&K,”Sushil Chandra, Election Commissioner was quoted by Economic Times.

Currently JK  legislative has 107 seats but after delimitation, which will be endorsed by the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019, the number of seats in the legislative assembly will increase to 114, with due reservations for SC and ST communities. The seven additional seats are expected to be ST seats.

With such steps, new Delhi has calculated situation and is trying to make every effort to distribute representation in hung.  Thus, Jammu division will be in a comfortable position for bargaining if the mandate comes fractured. Such reasons have put fear and frustration in So-called people’s alliance. To bring back lost trust and faith, Conglomeration of parties are making efforts to make them relevant in the irrelevant atmosphere.

Shadab Peerzada, a local political analyst and columnist feel that this alliance is dubious in nature, they have never stood hard on the ground but gone with the flow of powerful forces.

“I am not against the grand alliance of local parties for getting the special status back,  but, history doesn’t favour our politicians. We
should remember, when the situation was similar but larger in perspective;  when All Jammu and Kashmir Plebiscite Front was fighting for the sovereignty of J&K state but,  The 1974 Indira-Sheikh accord and Sheikh Abdullah ditched the Plebiscite Front for Indian sovereignty over Kashmir and ended the demand in return for extensive autonomy and
self-government under Article 370 of the Constitution of India. from PF to Self Rule to Autonomy to People’s alliance, our politicians have never been effective to confront the Center and its policies,” said Shadab

Shadab thinks that,the mainstream has lost public faith now, their actions are coming  out of frustration.”The main problem with our politicians is that, local masses have lost confidence in them, it is a leaderless group tired and broken in detentions,” added Shadab Peerzada

The history of these political parties and their leaders is controversial, both the NC and PDP have been fighting the election with a manifesto of greater autonomy ( Autonomy and Self Rule ) but, at the same time sincerity in their  efforts has been opaque. 

BJP considers the demand for either Self Rule or  Autonomy as anti-national, i.e making Article 356 (imposition of President’s Rule) non-applicable to Jammu and Kashmir, for which a separate constitution and its special status under Article 370 formed the basis. The governor, it says, should be elected and rotated between Jammu and Srinagar and Article 370 to its original pristine form.

It has been not BJP’ stated policy only  that ,the complete merger of the restive state should be with India but Abolition of constitutional provisions – Article 35 A and Article 370 was written in their election manifesto also .  Despite such stance, both parties were part of BJP coalition at the national level or state.

Sajad Lone who called PM Modi as his big brother was not given any comfort seat after abrogation. His approach towards NC and Congress was hard now, he is with same ranks. In an interview ,Bharkha Dutt asked Sajad lone why is he preferring BJP over Congress, lone said , “Do you mean rigged elections in the past?
Yes, and their dealings with Sheikh saheb (Sheikh Abdullah), the 1987 elections. How can any party walk away with murder [of democracy] like what happened in 1987? You had the Congress and the National Conference getting together and thrusting a gun at a very peaceful population. They got away with murder. And today, they have the audacity to talk about Kashmir. They rigged the elections together. It was a daylight robbery”.

Sajad lone’s alliance with BJP was criticized by Congress Leader GM , after PDP and NC started talks for the coalition in 2018. “I want to tell their (BJP) leader in Delhi that the combination you were moving along and the person which the BJP was projecting (as CM)… when did he get delinked from the ISI. Have you taken a certificate for him? When someone supports you, you think he is a nationalist,” Indian Express had reported Mir.

“Keeping in view the decisions that are being taken without the consent of the majority of Kashmiris, trusting a mainstream politician is now a utopian idea. Gauging the mood of locals, even people will not participate in elections which are likely to take place in coming months,” said Ayaz Ahmed, who is Journalism student.

Ayaz Ahmed went on and said,”It’s pertinent to mention that after last year’s unilateral revocation of Article 370 by RSS led Central govt, the only Muslim majority state not only takes it as an attack on identity but above all it’s apparent, religion is the main target of the autocratic govt. Had that not been the case why other states in mainland India enjoy the special status somewhat similar to Article 370. There is no ambiguity now and people look at it rightly from the prism of Hindu Muslim binary.”

A local student , Khalid Ahmed , who is regularly writing on politics in national and international publications ,  termed ,Gupkar Declaration nothing less than day dream .”I would rather call it a gupkar poke declaration then declaration. When we see the right meaning of declaration, it is totally  different from gupkar, in a sense what gupkar is?
Declaration is etymologically a gathering  of two rivalries or between opposite  ideological groups, like the previous talks between Taliban, Afghanistan Government and Mike Pompeo and other stake holders.
In Kashmir these unknown people meet in there houses like guests and with a poke call it declaration,” said Khalid Ahmed .

“Is there any written statement between them. The reply is no. Is there any care of citizens of Kashmir or india about whom they create buzz and chaos. Definitely there is no such reply. In my view the two friends or past foes are agreeing on their common points and meeting like the two old friends, who have not met since a long ago,” added Khalid .

One of mainstream political worker who requested for anonymity said that , there is no space for mainstream politics , they are now irrelevant and he personally believes that , on any occasion workers can change affiliation from one side to counterparts . “If in future  our parties come in majority and try to dictate union government on their terms ,a  single intimidation from Enforcement agencies can  change affiliation of MLAs from West to south . We have witnessed in past and recently , how MLAs or political workers are used  as pawns .  Don’t we remeber how Farooq Abdullah’s, 64-year-old estranged brother-in-law  Gulam Mohammed Shah, along with 12 other important National Conference (NC) MLA’s dismissed his government on the behest of Indra Ghadi and people were chanting slogans everywhere, like  Gul Shah – Chor Shah“, “Marqazi Sarkar Murdabad” (Down with the Central Government) and “Indira Gandhi Murdabad. Nothing has changed now , yesterday was Gulshan or bakhashi now there are others , they can put anyone on task . I personally have declined my conscience to belive any political dogma here,” said  this political worker, who is currently affiliated with National Conference .

Kamran Ashraf Bhat is Joint Editor of daily Inside Kashmir