Gupkar Declaration: Why J&K politicos are meeting at Farooq Abdullah's home today

The first Gupkar Declaration was a resolution issued after an all-party meeting on 4 August, 2019 at the Gupkar Road residence of the NC president

FP Staff October 14, 2020 00:07:35 IST
Gupkar Declaration: Why J&K politicos are meeting at Farooq Abdullah's home today

Omar and Farooq Abdullah at Mehbooba Mufti's residence. Twitter @OmarAbdullah

All regional parties in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir are set to meet at National Conference president Farooq Abdullah's home on Thursday to sign what is being called the Gupkar Declaration 2.0.

The declaration, in essence, will be a common agreement to collectively fight against the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.

Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, who was released from detention after 14 months on Tuesday, will also attend the meeting.

"My father and I called on Mehbooba Mufti Sahiba to enquire about her well-being after her release from detention," NC vice-president Omar Abdullah told reporters.

He said the PDP leader has accepted the invitation for the meeting of signatories to the Gupkar Declaration on Thursday.

What is Gupkar Declaration?

The first Gupkar Declaration was a resolution issued after an all-party meeting on 4 August, 2019 at the Gupkar Road residence of the NC president.

This came a day before the Centre announced its decision of revocation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status and split it into two Union territories.

It stated that the parties unanimously resolved to be united in their effort to protect and defend the identity, autonomy and special status of Jammu and Kashmir against all attacks and onslaughts.

The joint statement read, "We are committed to strive for the restoration of Articles 370 and 35A, the Constitution of J&K and the restoration of the state and any division of the state is unacceptable to us. We unanimously reiterate that there can be nothing about us without us."

The statement further added, "The series of measures undertaken on 5 August 2019 was grossly unconstitutional and in reality measures of disempowerment and a challenge to the basic identity of the people of J&K."

The political parties jointly stated, "We want to assure the people that all our political activities will be subservient to the sacred goal of reverting to the status of J&K as it existed on 4th August 2019."

However, the very next day, the Centre imposed strict curfew and communication blockade in the erstwhile state and revoked its special status. It also scrapped Article 35A that provided certain special rights to the residents of Jammu and Kashmir.

Meanwhile. almost all the political leaders and activists in the state were rounded up and confined to state facilities, while others were kept under house arrest.

The second effort to revive the declaration came after some of the leaders were released in August.

However, local press reported that efforts to convene an all party meet in August were 'scuttled' as Central agencies blocked all roads leading to Farooq's residence with barricades and concertina wires.

Declaration has few takers in Kashmir: Reports

Kashmiri journalist Safwat Zargar, wrote in Scroll in September that there are few who expect much from this renewed effort at portraying a unified front by Kashmiri parties.

The reasons he lists for lukewarm public response include Farooq's failure to explicitly demand for the restoration of special status and the absence of any meaningful political activity on ground, primarily because of the detentions of political leaders and safety concerns.

Meanwhile, former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Altaf Bukhari claimed that for local parties, Gupkar Declaration is simply the means to the end of grabbing power.

In an interview to ThePrint, Bukhari said politicians in Kashmir are “hoodwinking” the people and “creating a smokescreen” by demanding the restoration of Article 370.

Bukhari also claimed that both PDP and NC leadership knew about New Delhi's impending move on 4 August, 2019.

The mixed signals political parties are sending on the Gupkar declaration further disenchants the public with the local parties' so-called efforts to fight for Kashmir's dignity.

An article in Deccan Chronicle pointed out that a distinguishing feature of the historical declaration is that it is no longer a missive from Kashmir, but is a national document in its own right.

This is because, in addition to the regional parties that had met in 2019, two national parties,  Congress and CPM,  also joined them at Farooq's residence on 22 August.

However, the political double speak is palpable.

The Kashmir wings of the two national parties, along with the regional parties, reaffirmed their commitment to restoration of Article 370 saying that they’re ‘wholly bound’ by the Gupkar Declaration. The parties stated that all political activities in the region will now be subservient to the “sacred goal of reverting to the special status of J&K as it existed on 4 August 2019”.

However, on a national stage Congress, the larger of the two national parties, has been dilly-dallying.

The party, after a special working committee meet, decided to condemn the "undemocratic manner" in which special status had been revoked.

Its resolution, however, said nothing about restoration of Article 370 if it had the chance to do so. Furthermore, CWC member and former prime minister Manmohan Singh has said on record the Congress party was never against its scrapping of the special status but only the manner in which it has been pushed upon the people.

“Congress party voted in favor of bill to abrogate Article 370, not against it. We believe Article 370 is a temporary measure but if a change has to be brought, it should be with goodwill of people of J&K," Singh was quoted as saying in news reports.

Meanwhile, Abdullahs have also missed a few opportunities to unequivocally demand the restoration of special status.

While Farooq's statement in Parliament demanded a resolution of the Kashmir problem and dialogue with Pakistan, Omar, in an editorial in Indian Express, wrote that he will not contest elections till such time that Jammu and Kashmir remains a Union Territory.

This, by extension was percieved as a climbdown, indicating that his utmost goal was only to reinstate the status of a state and that he had reconciled with the loss of autonomy and special rights.

The Express piece even prompted the resignation of former NC minister and party spokesperson Aga Ruhullah Mehdi, who cited irreconcilable differences with the leadership.

Omar later clarified to The Print that he had not given up the fight to reinstate Article 370, but the rider that he thinks the demand is pointless under the current dispensation did little to help the party's image. The damage was already done.

However, Khalid Shah, associate fellow at ORF, opined in The Print that the declaration  is a blessing in disguise for the government of India to set things right in Kashmir, adding that the only Opposition to the declaration has either come from anti-India separatists or from the BJP itself.

He argued that the unity of political parties has rekindled some degree of hope and support for the mainstream in Kashmir.

"Efforts to break the Gupkar Declaration and browbeat Kashmir’s mainstream into silence will tantamount to scoring a self-goal," he cautioned.

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