Formation of Peoples’ alliance of seven main stream parties of Jammu and Kashmir and the Gupkar Declaration to defend identity, autonomy and special status” of J&K.

What is Gupkar Declaration?

On August 4, 2019, a day before the Union government announced the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, political parties in Kashmir, except the BJP, met at the residence of National Conference president Farooq Abdullah at Gupkar Road in Srinagar. Since then, the joint statement is known as the ‘Gupkar Declaration’.

The first Gupkar declaration was signed before the abrogation of Article 370. The representatives of JKNC, JKPDP, JKPC, JKPCC, CPI (M), PUF, JKPM and Awami NC met at the Gupkar Residence of Farooq Abdullah to discuss the tensed situation triggered by the massive deployment of security forces and forced removal of tourists from the valley. The president of the National Conference stated that he will raise the Gupkar declaration in Parliament and this struggle will be Gandhian as they never believed in stones and bullets. They had vowed to “defend identity, autonomy and special status” of J&K.

In the meeting presided over by Farooq Abdullah, political leaders of various ideological hues in J&K had unanimously resolved that all the parties would be united in their resolve to protect and defend the identity, autonomy and special status of J&K against all attacks and onslaughts whatsoever. “That modification, abrogation of Articles 35A, 370, unconstitutional delimitation or trifurcation of the state would be an aggression against the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.”

On October 13, 2020, the Jammu and Kashmir administration ended the house arrest of former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti. Her release came after a 14-month detention during which she was slapped with the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) provisions. With her release, normal political activities in J&K that stood frozen for almost two-and-a-half years are expected to gather pace. 

National Conference President Farooq Abdullah and Vice President Omar Abdullah paid a visit to PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti at her residence on Wednesday, 14 October, a day after she was released from detention.

The Reunion Giving Shape to Alliance: 

After being jolted during a yearlong jail term, when unionist right to roam around was restored, the destination remained unchanged -the residence of Dr Farook Abdullah. Representatives of the National Conference, People’s Democratic Party, People’s Conference, Awami National Conference, and Communist Party of India (Marxist) met at Farooq Abdullah’s residence on October 15 and gave a formal name to their grouping: ‘People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration’. This time they wanted a follow-up to Gupkar declaration. They eventually released Gupkar Declaration-II. They vowed to fight collectively the revocation and, adopted the flag of the erstwhile state of J&K as its symbol.

The signatories of the joint statement include NC president Farooq Abdullah, incarcerated PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee president GA Mir, CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami, Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Conference chairman Sajad Gani Lone and Jammu and Kashmir Awami National Conference senior vice-president Muzaffar Shah. 

Farooq Abdullah, too, has called the joint action as a “constitutional battle”. Like Mehbooba, he too has linked the larger conflict resolution to their joint fight.

National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah has been elected as chairman, while PDP president Mehbooba Mufti has been elected Abdullah’s deputy, CPM leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami was appointed as the convenor of the alliance. Sajad Lone of People’s Conference, meanwhile, was named as the spokesperson.

“Ours is a constitutional battle. We want the government of India to return to the people of the state the rights they held before 5th August, 2019,” senior Abdullah said. After a two-hour-long meeting, the representatives of six unionist parties resolved to “fight for the restoration of Article 370”.

The statements perhaps show that the parties are pinning their hopes on the Supreme Court’s verdict on Article 370 and are not keen to take the battle to the streets. They insist that their battle is constitutional and not “separatist”, which implies that they want to keep the doors with New Delhi open.

The statement said the “unfortunate events” of August 5 last year have unrecognizably changed the relationship between J-K and New Delhi.

“In a spitefully short-sighted and unconstitutional move, Articles 370 and 35A were abrogated and the state was bifurcated and relegated to the status of two Union Territories and its Constitution tried to be made unenforceable.

“The series of measures undertaken on August 5, 2019 were grossly unconstitutional and in reality, measures of disempowerment and a challenge to the basic identity of the people of J-K. The measures attempt to redefine who we are. These changes were accompanied by repressive measures meant to silence people and coerce them into submission, and continue unabated,” it said.

As a mark of defiance to the constitutional changes made by the centre with respect to Jammu and Kashmir last year, the alliance adopted the flag of the erstwhile state as its symbol.

The alliance will come out with a white paper within a month on governance in J&K over the past one year since the abrogation of Article 370, Lone told reporters after the meeting.

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.

However, Political Analysts and Experts Have Different Views About the So Called Gupkar Declaration.

Political analysts feel that 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. Notwithstanding, the term “special status” used by these leaders is grossly misrepresenting because this phrase has not been mentioned anywhere in the Constitution of India. 

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? 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 victim of these barriers.

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 their houses like guests and with a poke call it declaration,” said Khalid Ahmed.

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.

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 Centre 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.