Statehood and beyond

Apni Party president Altaf  Bukhari’s insistence on the restoration of the statehood for J&K has generated much comment. It is an important window into Apni Party’s political philosophy in relation to its way of communicating to the people in the UT desperate for the return of the statehood, and also with Delhi, telling it that this is the only way out of the crisis at the moment. There is a crisis of identity.

In the current volatility of the Kashmir politics, it has now narrowed down to Apni Party’s goal versus the rest, especially the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration. The struggle is on and now the wait is, who will win the race and at what point. Apni Party has an advantage for it has a clearly marked starting point and the goalpost, because it has no baggage and it is not opting for goals beyond the goal post.

This appears to be a fair assessment of the situation. Delhi, the critical factor, too, would be amenable to it, as per its own commitment to restore the statehood to the UT of J&K.

A paradox of sorts has emerged. The PAGD, has spared no shot against Apni Party, accusing it of diluting the goal of the restoration of the special status, while the conglomerate itself has flip-flopped in the recent times. This is how the politics of Kashmir has been all along where short-term gains have taken precedence over the realistic goals. And, if the past is any guide, this has been the main source of the political instability in Kashmir. It has become clearer now after the conclusion of the District Development Council polls – some of the constituents of the PAGD have re-opened talks with Delhi seeking support to consolidate their influence in their respective areas. No methodology to restore the special status was discussed by these constituents of the PAGD who dumped their stated ideology to fulfil their political ambitions to get into power. All other constituents of the PAGD know who all have been to Delhi and dong what, and meeting whom with what objective. The constituents and the leaders have not admitted it. This is a compromise for petty things.

Bluntly speaking, the fact of the matter is that the PAGD was not in existence prior to October 24, 2020. It was an idea resting on Gupkar Declaration of August 4, 2019, when it had vowed to protect the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. That pledge lost its relevance the very next day on August 5, 2019, when the Narendra Modi government did what it had wanted to for long – abolish the special status of J&K.

Prior to this two prominent political parties of Kashmir – National Conference having a long history of stellar role that it played over the decades, and PDP that emerged as an alternative in regional politics in 1990s and could credit itself for making life easy for the people in early 2000s, had boycotted Municipal and Panchayat elections. Their thesis was that they were protesting against Centre’s attempts to tamper with the special status of the state – that was in late 2018, but in spring of 2019, both the parties contested parliamentary elections, violating their own code of conduct. This flip-flop was noticed further when they decided to take part in the DDC polls.

Apni Party is in its Corona-hit infancy and as such its core thrust on the statehood is much above the political goal when analysed against the backdrop of where Jammu and Kashmir is today. There are plenty of uncertainties. These have been added by one of the best known leaders, and second most important party functionary in National Conference, Omar Abdullah who gave a public expression to his dilemma. He admitted it candidly that he didn’t know where he is standing. But the consequences have been huge for the party, for leaders lead through crisis, not show signs of weaknesses. He, perhaps, could not think of his political future in the absence of the special status.

Some elements can take advantage of the now widely circulating thesis that the DDC polls were an end in itself. Then Kashmir will be frozen in time and the future politics would become a dream.

It should be clear, and it is being emphasised time and again by Apni Party leaders that statehood, too, was dismantled. It needs to be restored. This is a realistic goal.

True, that Home Minister Amit Shah had promised on the floor of the Parliament that statehood would be restored to the UT of J&K. But bells have to be tolled to remind him that J&K requires statehood, it is a necessity for the region

It is  a must for the political empowerment, and economic development of the people. While climbing the ladder, no step can be missed. It is important that the struggle should be invested in achievable goals. Statehood would open doors to the J&K state legislative assembly polls.