Saturday, September 26, 2020
 
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No to Gupkar Declaration, Why not Jammu Declaration?
Straight Talk





K B Jandial



The “Gupkar Declaration-II”, a belated joint resolve by five Kashmir based mainstream political parties and one national party, Congress to struggle for undoing all that was done by the Parliament on 5th-6th August last year. However, the Congress says that PCC Chief didn’t attend the meeting held at Dr. Farooq Abdullah’s Gupkar residence on 22nd August, 2020 and on very next day, partially disassociated from the Declaration, respecting the overwhelming sentiments of Ladakh and Jammu and the impugned Articles 35A & 370 being subjudice. However, it extended support for restoration of Statehood, which even Jammu is demanding.

The Declaration issued five months after Dr. Abdullah’s release from detention, has sought restoration of Articles 370 & 35A of the Constitution of India which failed to stir-up popular reaction in Kashmir, one time NC bastion, what to talk of Jammu and Ladakh or elsewhere India. The Central Govt and the UT Govt have not reacted to it and is not expected to do so. It appears that Modi Govt has carefully given a gentle push to revival of credible political activities in Kashmir where, so far, only BJP and to some extent, APNI party are seen to be active. Prior to “Gupkar Declaration”, Dr. Abdullah and Omar Abdullah were literally on interview spree on regional and national media. This cannot be without a strategy.

Prefixing “Gupkar” with the Declaration, the hi-fi Kashmiri leaders showed how disconnect they are from the people. “Gupkar” has no historical or geopolitical significance that can catch the imagination of the common Kashmiri except that it is a popular and privileged area where high and mighty people of Kashmir live, and which was forbidden for ordinary Kashmiris till 2003. Besides the palaces inhabited by the descendants of erstwhile Dogra rulers, this privileged area has residences of three former Chief Ministers, Corps Commander of 16 Corps, ex-Ministers, Judges, bureaucrats & some other important people, IB office, a palace converted into 5-star Hotel and Raj Bhawan. During Dogra Rule, the entire area including Sonawar, Indira Nagar & Badami Bagh was called as Gopadari or Jyshtheshvara hill. It continues to be the abode of powerful and privileged few- from the past Maharajas to present day Rajas that always remained far away from the commoners. And so are the Gupkar Declarations. There was no upheaval on the scrapping of special Constitional provisions and detention of many political leaders post Gupkar Declaration-I. Almost similar is the reaction to Declaration-II.

No one should take umbrage at holding of meetings, issuing statements and “Declaration” which, in a way, indicates revival of political process. All these are, indeed, respectable leaders, ideological differences notwithstanding; and respecting each other’s views is the core of the democratic polity reflecting political tolerance.


While calling the scrapping of Article 370 as “grossly unconstitutional” and “a challenge to the basic identity of the people of J&K” the Declaration says that, “The measures attempted to redefine who we are”. Well, it is for the Apex court to determine its vires but how come identity of people of J&K is challenged? While Jammu’s Dogra identity had hardly been recognized, Kashmiriyat had been very popular identity of Kashmiris which too was tainted when Kashmiri Pandits minority was pushed out of Kashmir following their selective killings in 1990, and later during Mehbooba’s time, spokes were put in their return when the Govt planned to set up separate colonies at Srinagar for them. Jammu and Ladakh don’t share their identities with Kashmiriyat. So, talk of “challenge to identity of people of J&K” is misleading as there exists no threat, whatsoever, to regional and cultural identities. Moreover, nobody is attempting “to redefine who we are”. We know who we are. In Jammu and Ladakh, we call ourselves Dogras or Ladakhis and proud Indians which perhaps is not so with Kashmiris.

The “Gupkar Declaration-II” also says, “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. 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.”

In democracy, the Parliament is the sovereign, representing the will of nation and in this case it acted democratically and constitutionally to recast this temporary provision after proper debate. J&K MPs with only exception of Dr. Farooq Abdullah who was detained at his Srinagar residence, participated in the debate. The Parliament has constituent power to amend Constitution except changing its “basic structure” and a temporary and transitional provision cannot be a basic structure. So, it is wrong to say that it was “forcibly taken away”. Similarly, giving assurances to people too is a political right but again don’t give promises that are unachievable.

Demanding restoration of the scrapped J&K specific constitutional provisions and Statehood, by no stretch of interpretation, are anti-national and secessionist acts. Unlike China and Pakistan, peaceful dissent is the magnificence of Indian democracy that enhances India’s democratic image across the world.

Many in Jammu feels that “Gupkar Declaration” is designed for Kashmir without caring to interact, understand and appreciate the popular sentiments of Ladakh and Jammu, two equally important stakeholders in this scheme of things. As an afterthought, the Political Affairs Committee of NC now decided to open dialogue with these two regions to bring them around to “Gupkar Declaration”.

The leaders of these five Kashmir centric parties, at least two of these had ruled the State for about 65 years since Independence, are responsible for all the problems faced by Kashmiris. They always thought Kashmiri leadership as arbiter of Jammu & Ladakh, considering themselves as the sole representatives of Muslims who constitutes majority, even in bifurcated UTs. Sentiments and interests of other regions had no consequences for them. This communal and regional bias had been the hallmark of their political thinking, approach and governance since Independence. Temporary and special constitutional provisions including illegally incorporated Article 35A had strengthened their political and psychological hegemony, treating both regions of Jammu & Ladakh as mere tutelage and appendage.

“Gupkar Declarations-II” reflected this arrogance even when it did not get much public support in Kashmir as well. Why? Because most of the people hold them responsible for whatever miseries they had been facing for quite some time and perhaps, not willing to give them another chance. Omar Abdullah was perhaps much nearer to the ground reality when he said that many people felt that “acha hai yeh sab jail main gaye” when the interviewer asked as to why there was no public protest to their detention. People of Kashmir are wary of old leadership for their self-goals, amassing wealth and leading luxurious life even surpassing Maharajas’ life style; and on the contrary, selling to people unachievable dreams of ‘Naya Kashmir’.

Article 370 was exploited to make people believe that they constitute a separate “quom” and Delhi is their enemy from which mainstream leaders alone can protect their rights. Even the co-author of Article 370, Sher-i-Kashmir, in good old days of 1949 when he started tasting real power after pushing Maharaja Hari Singh to forced “self-exile,” had not visualized permanency of this constitutional provision which his descendants treat it a permanent “sovereign guarantee”. The Sheikh knew it to be “temporary, transitional & special” provision for J&K dealing specifically with powers of the Parliament to enact laws on subjects in Union and concurrent lists. Even during Pt Nehru’s time, it was unambiguously made clear that this special provision would gradually become inconsequential in due course of time with applicability to J&K of all provisions of Constitution of India, the original copy of which bears the signatures of all the 4 representatives of J&K including the Sher-i-Kashmir. Even Sheikh had said in 1982 that Article 370 is not khudai kitab that cannot be amended.

Whiling restricting Parliament’s legislative powers, Article 370 simultaneously allowed to Parliament to make laws for J&K on other subjects in Union & Concurrent lists also and extend other provisions of the Constitution but only with “concurrence of the Government of the State”. (Article 370 clause 1, sub cl b-ii & d). Concurrence was given by the successive State Govts including of Sheikh Abdullah and provisions were extended in due course of time. At the time of recasting Article 370, Parliament had power to enact laws for J&K on 94 out of 97 subjects in Union List besides extension of about 90% provisions of the Constitution of India, of course, with “exceptions & modifications”.

But Kashmiri leadership had presented Article 370 to people differently. Omar Abdullah as CM had said in the Assembly that “accession with India is conditional”. Many others said that the accession is linked with Article 370. The objective was to use these provisions politically and to create a huge constituency of J&K on the basis of a separate entity loosely placed in Federal India which can snap ties anytime. How much this narrative factored in fueling separatism is another debate but the fact remains that there always existed tension between J&K & Delhi whenever their demands are delayed or not conceded and “conditional accession” brought into the play. It was used as an element of political blackmailing and instrument to thwart extension of progressive pieces of central constitutional and statutory provisions, most glaring was 73rd & 74th Constitutional amendments of Rajiv Gandhi time that empowered Panchayats & local self Govt institutions all over India but not in J&K. it has now been done.

Even on human right violations, they were no different. Their rules too were blemished with killings of people in 2010 & 2016. The agony of people is realised by them only when out of power. The words of Mehbooba Mufti as CM “ kya bachye army camps main toffee leney jatey hain?” at joint presser with then Home Minister when asked about increasing causalities of youth in police action in 2016 still echoed.

It is good that political process has commenced in Kashmir and also good for India’s global image to counter anti –India propaganda outside the country. This issue should be debated but coolly to bring out advantages and disadvantages of the scrapped Article 370. It would be better for the Govt to issue a white paper on their acts of commissions & omissions and amassing wealth during their rule besides obstruction to progressive central laws and schemes so that people can appreciate.



Many don’t subscribe to jingoism on this issue, calling leaders of mainstream parties as anti-national and Gupkar “gang”. They are the same leaders and parties with which BJP had knitted alliance in the State as well as at the Centre, and they held Indian interest high in face of Pakistan’s persistent machinations, no matter how serious differences that might have existed during or after alliances. A few of these leaders has international standings. No purpose would be served to paint them as pro-secessionists when they are not. Even when their political clout is low, ridiculing them with distasteful languages would only increase trust deficit between Delhi and Kashmir as politically astute Kashmiris quietly watch Delhi’s actions even when they are not speaking out. The situation needs to be handled with political maturity, sagacity and statesmanship even though special status is a closed issue.


While the local BJP and APNI Party have sharply reacted to Gupkar Declaration but Jammu & Ladakh have not done so far. Leaders of both these grossly discriminated regions must join hands and interact on “Gupkar Declaration-II” and rise to the occasion. Unlike Ladakh, Jammu has always missed such opportunities to demonstrate their political unity for a cause. Today, opportunity has come again and with its all-inclusiveness, Jammu must grab it to counter Kashmir’s effort to again command hegemony over Jammu. Jammu’s civil society should take initiative and bring all political forces at a common platform for Jammu cause and come up with Jammu Declaration, listing it political agenda? Wake up Jammu; it is a defining moment for us.



(Author is a retired IAS officer) feedback: [email protected]





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