A complete picture is yet to emerge about the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, despite its signatories having given a formal structure to the conglomerate and chosen flag of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir as their symbol, till their “struggle” for restoration of the special status and the statehood that were done away with on August 5, 2019, doesn’t fructify.
It is an ambitious project in the given situation in the country, and they have been wise enough not to fix any timeline for achieving what they want to achieve. Much has changed since, what was taken for granted is now like an oasis in desert. There is a big gap.
Delhi is also waiting that how the Alliance plans to fill the gap. As of today, during the poll campaign season in Bihar, it suits BJP that wants the nation to believe that August 5 eliminated all the barriers between Kashmir and the rest of the country. Longer the Alliance will take to unveil its roadmap, it will help the forces that stand in opposition to the Gupkar Declaration and its flag bearers. But the existing gap is in the interest of neither. This should be bridged through dialogue in an amicable fashion.
It is important to understand why Gupkar Declaration, and then the alliance thereof, and also the means that it will undertake to reach the goalpost defined by it. The constitutional provisions, the Alliance has stated it categorically, were “snatched away illegally.” Unless these questions find satisfactory answers, the Indian nation would have unending doubts about them and their mission.
Their coming together is already a subject matter of nationalism versus anti-nationalism. It is because the people across the country don’t have much knowledge about these leaders and their parties. By no stretch of imagination this Alliance is a replica of the Hurriyat Conference. The Alliance leaders are talking of the Constitution and insisting that the scrapped parts be restored there. They are asking for restoration, not for inclusion of something new. The Hurriyat never recognised the Indian constitution. Had they accepted the Indian constitution, there would have been no problem.
The alliance does represent Kashmiri nationalism. All its leaders belong to one community. That was also the case when they were ruling the erstwhile state. When BJP was an ally of PDP, the top leaders were from Kashmiri Muslim community. It is their struggle to survive in the political desert where they have landed with a political goal. The search for oasis has begun, but the realism tells that what they are asking for, has only one address – Delhi. Any deviation would be a failure.
The Gupkar Declaration’s original version was released on August 4, 2019, when all its signatories had assembled and vowed to defend the special status under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution, and the special privileges under Article 35 A. They were confident that these would not be done away with. They also believed in their warning that tampering with these provisions will have serious consequences. Little did they know that within hours they would be shuttered from the public view- detained for months together.
The revised version of the Gupkar Declaration issued on August 22, 2020, had a different tone, because what they had pledged to defend in August 2019, was gone. BJP had fulfilled its promise made in its manifesto of abrogating Article 370. The said constitutional provision was given more than one interpretations. There was a long tag line – Article 370 being a shield for the unchecked corruption, secessionism, terrorism etc. Something more happened than what was feared. Ladakh was given Union Territory status that the Buddhists in the cold desert region had been demanding for long. The rest of the state of J&K was reduced to the UT.
There was no question of accepting or rejecting. It was a fait accompli proposed by the government with the vast majority in the Parliament endorsing it.
Now the Gupkar Declaration of August 2020 changed from defence to fight for the restoration of the state and the special status. The defence had crumbled. Out of the ruins of that, GD sought to resurrect a movement. The words used were strong that all political activities would be subservient to achievement of the goal. This was an extremist view because politics never remains hostage to any particular thing.
National Conference had its own history of the Plebiscite Front and the end of it. PDP had vowed never to allow the saffron party into the Valley, but shook hands against the advice of its friends and foes.
The leadership in Kashmir is facing credibility crisis. Its history is its biggest liability. But there is other side to the history. NC, nor any other group, has told the other part of the history in which their workers, legislators and ministers were killed by militants, because the victims were considered pro-India.
“This is not an anti-national jamat (organisation). It is against BJP, not the nation,” the alliance’s founding President and three-time Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah stated it emphatically. That, it is not a religious movement needs more convincing logic. That will not come through statements but a face to face dialogue. Only talks across the table will complete the picture. Incomplete pictures are filled with colours of doubts and misunderstandings
The Author is a senior journalist of Jammu and Kashmir, who has worked with Times of India, Hindustan Times, Indian Express and The Tribune. He has authored four books, Including “ Eyewitness Kashmir: Teetering on Nuclear War,” and “ Fictional Styles of George Orwell.”