Search for democratic space in Kashmir - GulfToday

Search for democratic space in Kashmir

BRP Bhaskar

@brpbhaskar

Indian journalist with over 50 years of newspaper, news agency and television experience.

Indian journalist with over 50 years of newspaper, news agency and television experience.

Kashmir

Central leadership of the main political parties in Kashmir comes together for the restoration of the valley's special status. Reuters

Seven political parties, which were part of the democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir for years, have come together to work for restoration of its statehood and special status in the Constitution of India.

In August last year the Narendra Modi administration had abrogated the constitutional provisions which gave the state a certain measure of autonomy in furtherance of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s sectarian agenda.

The measures were taken after beefing up security forces in the state, detaining senior leaders of major parties of the valley, cutting off communication links and imposing an unprecedented lockdown.

For abrogation of the state’s special status, the Centre offered the specious explanation that it was implementing the ruling party’s election promise.

In a democratic dispensation an electoral mandate, especially one secured on a minority of votes, is not sufficient justification for imposing decisions without consultations with the people who are likely to be affected.

The splitting of the state of J&K into two Centrally-administered union territories was a patently undemocratic act with not even a fig-leaf cover. The separation of Ladakh from the rest of J&K with the status of union territory has rendered that remote region vulnerable. China has already seized the opportunity to vitiate the situation along the long undefined border between the two countries.

The blocking of legitimate political activity in an area where militants have been active for years was an unwise move. The government’s strong measures resulted in a decline in militancy for a while. But its claim that terrorism has been wiped out is not correct.

Not a week passes without reports of liquidation of terrorists in encounters. Last week three BJP workers were killed in the valley by unknown assailants.

 The release of political leaders is the only step the government has taken to improve the situation. It was done partly under compulsion.

Ms. Mehdooda Mufti, who had headed the People’s Democratic Party-led coalition government, in which the BJP was a partner, and former National Conference Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah were freed only after the Supreme Court appeared likely to order their release.

Soon after their release the leaders of the major parties meet and decided to work together for restoration of status quo ante. In what is called Gupkar Declaration II, they characterised the measures taken by the Centre as “grossly unconstitutional”. These measures amounted to disempowerment and challenged the basic identity of the people of J&K, they said.

The parties to the declaration include the National Conference, the Peoples Democratic Party, the J&K unit of the Indian National Congress and the Peoples Conference, which have led or participated in the state’s elected governments, as well as the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Farooq Abdullah is the group’s Chairperson and Mehmooda Mufti is the Vice-Chairperson. CPI(M)’s Mohammed Yousef Tarigami is the Convener. They named the group People’s Alliance and chose the J&K flag as its symbol.

The  name they chose for  the joint statement makes it a sequel to the declaration they had adopted at a meeting held at Farooq Abdullah’s Gupkar residence on August 4 last year even as the Centre sent in army reinforcements and ordered tourists and Amarnath pilgrims out of the state in preparation for the crackdown.

On that occasion Farooq Abdullah had said their struggle would be Gandhian as they did not believe in stones and bullets. The BJP dubbed Gupkar Declaration II anti-national.  “It is anti-BJP, not anti-national,” said Farooq Abdullah.

Pakistan hailed Gupkar Declaration II. “It is not an ordinary occurrence but an important development,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said. In response to his tweet, Farooq Abdulla wrote:  “Let me make it clear that we are not anyone’s puppets, neither New Delhi’s nor of anyone across the border. We are answerable to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and will work for them.”

The people of Kashmir have spoken through their leaders. It is now for the rest of India to say whether they are with them or with the BJP on this issue.

Although the J&K unit of the Congress is a signatory to both Gupkar Declarations, its national leadership is yet to take a stand on the issue of restoration of status quo ante.

It is also time for the Supreme Court to take up the petitions questioning the constitutional validity of the Centre’s actions in J&K. It must be guided by the well-known legal maxim “Justice delayed is justice denied”.

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