Committed to restoring Article 370, 35A: Six J&K political parties in joint statement

Committed to restoring Article 370, 35A: Six J&K political parties in joint statement
[File] Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and other leaders attend an all parties meeting in Srinagar last year just before the abrogation of Article 370 | PTI

More than a year after the Gupkar Declaration, six political parties in Jammu and Kashmir who were signatories to the declaration, in a joint statement released on Saturday, reiterated that they are committed to strive for the restoration of Article 370 and 35A.

“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," NC president Farooq Abdullah, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, JKPCC chief G. A. Mir, CPI(M) leader M. Y. Tarigami, JKPCC leader Sajad Gani Lone and ANC leader Muzaffar Shah said in a joint statement on Saturday. They reiterated that they are ‘wholly bound’ and will unwaveringly adhere to the contents of the Gupkar Declaration.

On August 4, 2019, a day before the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, several political parties in the erstwhile state had met at the residence of former chief minister Farooq Abdullah at Gupkar Road and passed a declaration in support of the Article 370 and 35A.

The declaration, which came to be known as Gupkar Declaration, said the parties are united in their resolve to protect and defend the identity, autonomy and special status of J&K against all attacks and onslaughts whatsoever.  It said that modification, abrogation of Articles 35A and 370, unconstitutional delimitation or trifurcation of the state would be an aggression against the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.

The joint statement said the signatories of the Gupkar Declaration have barely managed to establish a basic level of communication with each other due to a series of prohibitive and punitive curbs imposed by the government, aimed at impeding all social and political interactions. “The limited confabulations held within the constraints imposed have resulted in this unanimous resolution,’’ it said.

It said the unfortunate events of August 5, 2019, have unrecognisably changed the relationship between J&K and New Delhi. “ In a spitefully shortsighted 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 leaders noted in the joint statement.

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,’’ they stated.

The leaders observed that these are testing times and times of pain for the peace-loving people of J&K. “We all reiterate our commitment to collectively fight to restore the special status of J&K as guaranteed under the Constitution and the commitments made from time to time,’’ it stressed. “There is unanimity amongst us that collective institutions are the effective way to fight for these rights and tirelessly struggle to get back the special status and restore the Constitutional guarantees forcibly taken away, against our will.”

The parties went on to assure the people that all their political activities will be subservient to the sacred goal of reverting to the status of J&K as it existed on  August 5, 2019. They said they want to express their gratitude to the people of India, the political parties, the intelligentsia and other civil society groups for opposing the unconstitutional measures and ever since, standing with the people of J&K in this crisis. “We appeal for their unstinted support to our just cause till the unconstitutional measures of August 5, 2019, are undone and the special status of J&K restored,’’ the joint statement read.

The statement urged the leadership of the subcontinent of India and Pakistan to take due notice of the ever-increasing skirmishes at the LAC and LOC resulting in casualties on both sides and unabated violent incidents in J&K and work for enduring peace in the region.

The joint statement is likely to complicate the Centre’s efforts to revive the political process in Jammu and Kashmir that has emerged as the most serious challenge for the Centre after the revocation of Article 370.

Senior politician Manoj Sinha's appointment as the Lieutenant Governor was seen as the readiness of the Centre to revive the political process in Jammu and Kashmir and prepare the ground for the election next year.

In addition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had, in his independence day speech, said that elections will be held in Jammu and Kashmir after the completion of delimitation process. The delimitation process commission is likely to submit its report by May next year.

However, the parties' refusal to accept the changes made by the BJP through Article 370 is likely to create serious issues for the Centre. Several J&K political parties, including the NC and PDP, have challenged the removal of Article 370.

The hardening of the stand on Article 370 by the political parties in Kashmir has come in the wake of NC vice-president Omar Abdullah writing in a newspaper column that he would not contest assembly elections until the statehood of J&K is restored. Omar was criticised for not taking about Article 370 and only making the restoration of statehood central to his participation in elections.

There is a general impression in Kashmir that the NC has moved beyond Article 370 and wants only the restoration of statehood to come back to power. Only Mehbooba has refused to budge on the question of Article 370. She continues to be detained at her home under PSA, while most political leaders who were detained under the draconian act after August last year have been released.

(This story was first published in The Week)

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