Gupkar Declaration and Ground Realities in J&K

B S Nagial (Retd)
On Aug 22, 2020, the six political parties of the Union Territory, Jammu and Kasmir signed a so-called political statement called ‘Gupkar Declaration 2.0’ to fight collectively against the abrogation of Article 370, which revoked the status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.The six political parties include– The National Conference (NC), the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the Indian National Congress, the J&K Peoples Conference (PC), the Communist Party of India (Marxist)(CPI (M)) and the Awami National Conference (ANC). Pakistan backed the statement and said that it is the voice of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It is pertinent to mention that former Chief Minister, Dr Farooq Abdullah is the head of the alliance formed by these political parties. The joint statement reads, ‘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.’
Key Points. The following key points emerged from this declaration:
* Six political parties stated that the decision of the centre to abrogate Article 370 and 53Awas unconstitutional.
* These parties declared that there can be nothing about us without us, clearly stating that the people of Jammu and Kashmir are of paramount importance.
* They further declared that abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A has been done with the purpose to disempower the people of Jammu and Kasmir.
Pakistan’ reaction. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said on the first anniversary of abrogation of special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir that it was India’s ‘strategic mistake’. He was at Muzaffarabad in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir(POK) to mark the ‘Youm-e-Istehsal, a day of solidarity.
Background.On August 4, 2019, 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. The president of the National Conference stated that he will raise the Gupkar declaration in Parliament and this struggle will be peaceful and democratic.
On the recommendation of Parliament, the President issued a Declaration under Article 370 of the Indian Constitution and gave assent to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019. Accordingly, the former state of Jammu & Kashmir has been reorganised as the new Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the new Union Territory of Ladakh on 31st October 2019.
After coming into force of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 with effect from 31st October 2019, the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir was reorganized into the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir with Legislature and Union Territory of Ladakh without Legislature. On 19th December 2018, President’s Rule was imposed in the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 356 of the Constitution of India. Since Article 356 of the Constitution of India does not apply to the Union Territories therefore President’s Rule was revoked on 31st October 2019.
Since the Legislative Assembly in the new UT of Jammu and Kashmir was not in existence, to avoid any constitutional vacuum, based on the report of the Governor of erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir, a Presidential Order was issued on 31st October 2019 under Section 73 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 imposing President’s Rule in the Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir.An order was also issued by the President to authorise expenditure out of the Consolidated fund of Union territory of Jammu and Kashmir under section 74 of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019 on 31st October 2019.
Abrogation of Article 370 and Integration of Jammu and Kashmir.Therevision of Article 370 removed the abscess from the body politic of India, especially of Jammu and Kashmir. The Indian subcontinent was divided in 1947 based on two-nation theory but Article 370 and Article 35A overshadowed the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir. The decision to create special provisions was taken under pressure and to appease the particular section of the society. Time and again it was advocated that Article 370 was created to foster the secular face of the state. If that was the case then it should have been removed long back. But India came under the pressure of selected few who pushed the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir to a state of uncertainties. It jeopardised the future of J&K. Worse was when we internationalised the issue by referring to the United Nation. Why India that believed in secular principles and structured the Constitution to protect India’s minorities rights including Muslims, felt it had to prove its secular credentials to the Muslim Kashmiris is not easily understandable. India committed its resources to uphold its promises despite mounting pressures. At the time of partition, India had 35 million Muslims living amidst Hindu majorities within the secular framework. As per the census of 1941, J&K had 3.95 million people and roughly 2.5 million were Muslims and this population was further reduced as Pakistan illegally occupied almost 1/3rd of the total areas of the state. So what was the compulsion to appease such a tiny portion of the population of India? India being a secular democratic country should have understood the intent of the Islamic State of Pakistan in Muslims majority the erstwhile state of J&K. Our short-sighted and self-defeating policies, our successive governments succumbed to the pressure of this section of the society and allowed Pakistan to take undue advantage of Kashmir problem and hyped it manifold. In turn, Pakistan increased terrorism in J&K and boosted the separatism. Even our ill-conceived Kashmir centric policies kept separatism alive.With this in the background, the revision of Article 370 and Article 35 A and the bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories was a decisive and bold step that is history changing in nature. Now the erstwhile state Jammu and Kasmir fully integrated to India, Pakistan is no more an interlocutor, UN resolutions are defunct, old Kashmir centric political leadership is defunct and incapacitated and new political leadership is emerging.
Unfortunately, people who advocate for the rights to the internet in the J&K failed to see the unpardonable human rights abuses that were inbuilt in the earlier political orders.These have been eliminated, be it the highly discriminatory residency laws, denial of citizenship rights to refugees who fled to J&K from areas that became Pakistan, the condition of the scheduled castes (also deprived of reservation schemes), gender inequality built into previous laws, unequal access to employment and education, and depriving the population of all the social benefit schemes available to the rest of the Indian population including the Muslims.
Looking at the changes brought about in the past one-year plus, it is obvious that the Union Government has pulled out all the stops to ensure that everyone living in the two Union Territories would get a sense of the egalitarian principles that are firmly embedded in India’s Constitution. These developments extend to a wide range of issues like social and political equality, education, jobs, reservations and other rights enjoyed by the underprivileged in the rest of the country. We need to ask the so-called conclave of the political parties who are so vocal about the Gupkar Declaration that why they didn’t allow crucial laws for the upliftment of the poor, Dalits, minorities, etc. What explanation do these political parties have, the people of India want to know? Basic fundamental changes are in the way in Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh. These changes remind us of monstrous failures of political leadership in the past. They lacked courage and conviction to undo the wrongs of the past.