PAGD and Past’s Specter

The ghost of their past still haunts each stakeholder of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD)

By Sheikh Imran

AFTER the abrogation of article 370 and article 35-A on August 5th 2019, Jammu and Kashmir was kept under a blanket of curfew for months. Leaders of all shades were jailed and kept under detention, including, the three former Chief Ministers: Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti. Political process came to a stall while scores of people were jailed or kept under preventive custody.  Modes of communication were snapped, both internet and voice calls were suspended, which were restored after months in a phased manner throughout the erstwhile State.

Consequently, the situation became very tense and a new wave of hopelessness swayed the people and politicians of Jammu and Kashmir. The political response by the parties and their leaders was something which was eagerly awaited by political pundits as well as the common masses after their release.

The Come Back

Once former Chief Minister and PDP Chief Mehbooba Mufti was finally released from detention, she immediately called for a meeting of all the leaders of Gupkar Declaration, which was formulated a day before the abrogation of Article-370 and Article-35- A.  Leaders from all the parties apart from BJP and Congress met and reiterated their stand of reclaiming the pre August 5 status “for the people of of Jammu and Kashmir”.

Interestingly, a formal name was chosen for the alliance and was called the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration. Farooq Abdullah was chosen as its President. Shah Faesal, who was at the forefront when all leaders from across parties met at Gupkar on 4th August 2019, was absent. Additionally, leaders of Congress issued statements of getting back Article-370 and 35-A, however they also declined to meet the leaders of PAGD and never vocally supported the alliance which compelled leaders of PDP and an ex Cabinet Minister of the National Conference to hold Congress responsible for the degradation of the erstwhile state and the undeclared suspension of civil rights here. It all seemed pragmatic until the DDC elections were declared. The alliance of PAGD which had maintained that no electoral process is acceptable unless pre August 5-2019 position is restored, however, jumped into the election fray through a strategic alliance.

The Ghost of the Past

It is vastly known that the special status articles had already been diluted over the years. These started with the concessions made by the Indira Gandhi government in 1975 which is popularly known as the Abdullah-Indira accord. More than 200 Union laws were already applied to the State and the State of Jammu and Kashmir which had its own Prime Minister and Sadr-e-Riyasat, positions was now to have a Chief Minister and the Governor instead.

This is still seen as a betrayal and an abject surrender of a popular political party which enjoyed a massive support of the people. Sheikh Abdullah, the then National Conference patriarch had accepted this new norm of Kashmir’s political scenario.

Though BJP had formally abrogated the Article-370 and Article-35-A it had already undergone major modifications. The SARFAESI act and implementation of GST regime were few of the latest modifications which happened while JKNC, Congress or the PDP were in power. The ghost of the past still haunts the parties spearheading this alliance owing to their submission at sensitive times in the past.

Now, JKNC is leading PAGD with the Abdullah’s in the mix yet again. The decision of various political leaders, who have lost much of their credibility, to be a part of the DDC elections is quite awry. The popular distrust of people, coupled up with their political history suggests that their new trysts might just be a time buying exercise through which leaders are trying to somehow get people accustomed to the “new normal”.

Attempt to Revive the Lost

Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah have at multiple times admitted that they have no courage to face the people and Mehbooba Mufti has also expressed similar thoughts. However, the enigmatic dilemma which makes their position more paradoxical remains — the fact that Omar has started his political journey from a BJP led NDA government and Mehbooba Mufti was also sworn in as the Chief Minister with a collation of the BJP.

The lukewarm response to recent developments like the eviction of Gujjar community from forests, CSR modification, land law modification and then actively jumping into an electoral fray when none of the erstwhile laws are reinstated makes PAGD seem like an alliance of the parties attempting hard to regain their lost importance and relevance.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

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