Six of Kashmir’s biggest political parties came together on Thursday to form an alliance to peacefully seek the restoration of the erstwhile state’s special status and fight for the rights of the people in the restive region.
Leaders of the National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peoples Conference (PC), Communist Party of India Marxist (CPI-M), Peoples Movement (PM) and Awami National Conference (ANC) met at the residence of former chief minister Farooq Abdullah for about two hours before announcing the coalition.
Abdullah said that the leaders decided to name it “People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration”, which will push for the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s constitutional position before August 5, 2019, when the region’s special status was revoked and it was split into two Union Territories.
“We shall struggle for restoration of what was snatched from Jammu Kashmir and Ladakh. Ours is a constitutional battle, we want the government of India to return to the people of the state the rights they held before August 5, 2019,” said Abdullah.
He was flanked on one side by his son and former CM Omar Abdullah, and his one-time arch rival and former CM Mehbooba Mufti on the other.
The meeting came two days after Mufti, who was the erstwhile state’s last chief minister, was released from detention that began in the early hours of August 5, 2019.
The Abdullahs, who were released in March, held a previous meeting on August 4 with other mainstream political leaders at their residence on Gupkar road, from where the political declaration derives its name.
Abdullah said the time had come for the resolution of the Kashmir issue. “We feel that the political issue of the state has to be resolved as quickly as possible and that can only be resolved through dialogue with peaceful means and with all the stakeholders who are involved in the problem of J&K,” he said.
Thursday’s meeting was the first major political event involving all major players in Kashmir since almost all of the Valley’s political leadership was detained hours before the region’s special status was revoked in 2019. After Mufti, only a handful of leaders remain in detention.
Other than the Abdullahs and Mufti, the meeting was attended by Sajad Lone chairman of PC, Muzaffar Shah, vice president of ANC and M.Y. Tarigami, leader of CPI(M).
President of the Jammu and Kashmir Congress, GA Mir, was expected to attend but could not, owing to health issues. The Congress was a part of the earlier August 4 Gupkar declaration.
“All the signatories to the Gupkar Declaration have given a formal name to the grouping: People’s Alliance. The alliance will constitutionally fight for the restoration of the August 4 position of J&K,” PDP spokesperson Najmu Saqib tweeted.
Abdullah said the leaders congratulated Mufti on her release. “It was a totally illegal, unjustified and unconstitutional detention. And already those who are still in the prison, we have demanded that they must be released immediately,” he said.
The NC president added that they would meet again because Thursday’s event was done on short notice. “At the same time we are also going to meet people from the other regions of the state so that we can have a broader discussion on the issues to be put before the people of the state as well as before the government of India,” he said.
Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah were released on March 13 and March 24, respectively. Both of them called on Mufti on Wednesday to invite her for the talks to take forward the Gupkar Declaration.
The Gupkar Declaration was a joint effort of NC, PDP, the J&K Congress, PC, ANC and the CPI (M) to fight for the restoration of special status of the erstwhile state.
The declaration was drafted on August 4, 2020 — a day before the one-year anniversary of the effective scrapping of Article 370, which accorded special status to the region. At that time, the parties had issued a joint statement vowing to defend the “identity, autonomy and special status of Jammu & Kashmir against all attacks and onslaughts whatsoever”.
Though Mufti was in detention, she had approved the participation of PDP.