Not content with anti-national, seditious, pro-separatist Gupkar Declaration signed on 04 August 2019, a day prior to the historical announcement of the Modi Government, the six leaders of Kashmir centric political parties including the 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 clearly spells out inherent dissension and lack of coherence within these parties.
Gupkar Declaration 1.0 was a veiled warning cum threat to the central government warning it 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 but were compelled to include a temporary provision in form of Article 370 due to prevailing uncertainty at that time. 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 New Delhi to ignore them. After one year of wilderness, one time rulers and kingmakers now robbed of their livelihood and status of being so-called mainstream politicians from Valley have come together once again openly challenging the New Delhi’s actions of 05 August 2019 and thereafter and vowing to fight together for 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 were, till yesterday, fighting each other for the loaves of power have come together now sensing 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 05th August 2019 have unrecognizably changed the relationship between J&K and New Delhi.” What relationship are they talking about? 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 victim of these barriers.
While condemning the various measures announced by the government post 05th August as unconstitutional and aimed at disempowering, challenging the basic identity of the people of J&K, the Gupkar Declaration also raised a question “who we are?” Once again there is 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 legislations passed by both houses of Parliament on 05th and 06th August as “Unconstitutional.” Incidentally, Farooq and two of his colleagues are member of the same Indian Parliament.
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 even acknowledged. In fact, Prime Minister Modi’s government had conveyed an unequivocal message well before 05 August by ignoring threats and call for boycotting the Panchayat elections and successfully conducting them. Prime Minister Modi’s road map for Kashmir has instilled hopes in the people. Hence Gupkar Declaration 2.0 has been issued by these parties and their leaders in order to assess their own relevance in the changed scenario since the public response has also been very lukewarm to say the least.
Why I term it a political gimmick is because it displays nothing but bankruptcy of political issues. Most of the issues raised in Gupkar Declaration have been answered by the Modi Government 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, but the Modi Government has already initiated the Delimitation Commission work towards forming seven additional constituencies. the process is underway and will broad-base the democratic participation.
Gupkar 2.0 vows to fight for 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 goal posts of the National Conference which under Sheikh Abdullah harboured the idea of independence, followed by demand of Greater Autonomy under the Farooq-Omar duo and now restoration of 370 under Dr Farooq Abdullah.
As far as restoration of statehood is concerned it is a futile demand because the Centre has assured on 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 pressures to try and hasten the process.
The timing of the declaration has raised a big question mark since it comes at a time when India’s neighbour appear to be strategizing to try and create instability in the Valley. 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 attempts to transgress the LAC and LOC by India’s neighbours but on the contrary they chose to issue this peculiarly treacherous statement. Also by observing 15 August 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.” If this reiteration is confined to the six signatories 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 are 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 by the old guard which is struggling hard to remain afloat and politically relevant. They fortunately enjoy the support of the “left-liberals”, the “Lutyens media” and “Khan Market caucus” which enjoy supporting divisive voices.
(The author is a Jammu based veteran, political analyst, columnist, security and strategic analyst. The views expressed are entirely personal. He can be contacted at [email protected])
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