History has been witness to the formation of various alliances in the politics of Jammu and Kashmir, from coordination committees to fronts united across ideologies. The declaration of the latest one, the Gupkar Alliance, is the pledge that “all our political activities will be subservient to the sacred goal of reverting to the status of J and K as it existed on 4th August 2019.” A common political platform which has been seemingly applauded across Jammu and Kashmir and taken as an unprecedentedly important political development by Pakistan in the contemporary political scenario, the alliance has decided to contest the upcoming District Development Council (DDC) elections that begin towards the end of this month.
This decision has dashed certain hopes and divided public opinion on the alliance’s relevance and credibility. The commendations of Pakistan to the Gupkar group has been misleading on several counts and has raised serious questions on Pakistan’s foreign policy towards Kashmir because the demand for restoration of the pre-August 5 position is well within the Constitution of India. Till Pakistan’s foreign policy statement on Gupkar Alliance came out, the same political parties were being applauded that Pakistan over the last several decades has repeatedly ridiculed as stooges and agents of India.
Undoubtedly, the primary aim of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) is a united political fight to undo the August 5 decision. One way of achieving this could have been their non-participation in any democratic activity introduced post August 5 because the participation of the alliance parties would only normalise these massive changes. If the alliance parties consider fighting the election for DDCs which are primarily aimed at normalising August 5, what is left to fight then? The argument that if they don’t contest, they will give a walkover to the BJP is flawed because any such election will have no bearing on New Delhi’s plans in any way. Strategically all these political moves are being made so that there is no stumbling block in the implementation of the August 5 project. The alliance parties should have in fact known this because the earlier J&K assembly, which was more powerful, at least theoretically than any of these councils, couldn’t prevent anything.
Also, the claim that the two former chief ministers, Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, individually wouldn’t fight any election till August 5 is undone, doesn’t mean anything as the post August 5 arrangement introduced by New Delhi has made any future chief minister (if at all there is any) like a mayor with no powers even on paper. If a former chief minister doesn’t want to become a mayor, it is no big deal. However, the participation of their parties in any post August 5 process directly or indirectly serves the opposite purpose, as the primary aim of all these exercises – panchayat and district development council polls and various other administrative programmes – is only to entrench the changes brought in after August 5. Nevertheless, if these alliance parties think that participation in any such poll process may earn them some space within the system, they are absolutely wrong and will get no strategic advantage at all. They must understand that they are unwanted in the new scheme of things and have exhausted their utility.
Constitutionally, if the ordinance abrogating 370 enacted by Parliament was injudicious and unconstitutional, how come the participation of alliance parties in the upcoming DDC polls be considered judiciously constitutional under the same constitution? Critics in the valley argue that the three NC parliamentarians and PDPs Fayaz Ahmad did not even offer to resign as MPs to symbolically register their protest against the August 5 move. Their resignation could have been a small step in convincing people that they are serious about walking the talk. Since the NC and PDP representatives continue to remain in the House which they accuse of committing an immoral, illegal, unconstitutional and unilateral act, it only means that their words are hollow. So, what kind of political hypocrites should voters choose as their next leaders?
The first and foremost limitation of this alliance is that they will be operating within the boundaries set by the Indian state. It has been made clear by Farooq Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti who are leading this alliance that the focus is more to oppose the BJP rather than challenging any action of the state. The two major parties of this alliance, NC and PDP, have been operating on the ideologies of “Regional Autonomy” and “Self Rule” respectively but the revocation of the special status has rendered these ideologies irrelevant. The NC has said in the past that it strives for regional autonomy within the ambit of the Indian Constitution and seeks to reverse the clock back to pre-1953 status. The PDP in the past has demanded self-rule and a joint mechanism in both parts of Kashmir divided between India and Pakistan. In such pro-India politics, the discourse is imported from outside and the leaders have to act upon the script that is written by the ‘Masters’ in New Delhi and supervised by multiple state agencies. The tall claims of this alliance to bring back the ‘special status’ of Jammu and Kashmir and oppose the right-wing politics of BJP is more rhetoric than reality. When the constituents of PAGD enjoyed power, two important groups in the alliance – the NC and PDP – did not shy away from forming a coalition with the same right-wing party who they claim is their opponent now. Even Sajad Lone, who is the alliance’s spokesperson, spoke highly of Narendra Modi’s leadership when he was benefiting from the patronage of the BJP.
Most of the politicians in this alliance had already lost credibility among the people after the way they operated to implement India’s nationalist project in Kashmir. To believe that this alliance will provide strong opposition to the BJP when most of the separatist leadership is in jails is one more delusion. The alliance represents no more than ‘manufactured dissent’, which is controlled, directed and limited by the Indian State, and which is required only to prove that democracy still prevails in the valley. The PAGD will last till the dates for the state assembly election are declared. Once that happens, the constituents of this alliance will not only disintegrate but will also seek to negotiate with the BJP to get back to the seats of power. They are part of the narrative of the Indian state that attempts to change the political discourse in Kashmir from questions of self determination to that of restoration of Article 370. This alliance is going to operate within this parameter.
—The writer is a journalist. [email protected]