As the political activities seem to revive in Jammu and Kashmir first time since August 2019, when the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) government revoked the semi-autonomy of the region, a new front of unionist political parties – People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), is in focus. With their decision to contest the upcoming District Development Council (DDC) elections this month, people have divided opinions on their relevance and credibility. We spoke to two political analysts on the issue.
Dr. Noor Ahmad Baba
This is politics and it is their own interest to continue the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) because they are rooted in the politics of autonomy, Kashmir’s identity, and all these political factions. So, therefore if they have to exist as political formations with the kind of politics they have pursued in the past they need to be together, which gives them strength. Without pursuing this issue, their entire politics is redundant. They will lose ground. They can’t go to people without that. There is hardly anything that could help us but at least there is a thing that these politicians have a voice. They represented Indian. Some of them also have represented the union of India outside.
Therefore, I think, this is an important thing that they are doing – all the steps that they have taken. And they are presently standing by it as it is the question of their survival. They are doing it because the whole politics revolves around the autonomy of Kashmir, Article 370. If they do not stand by it, they lose their political ground, they have no politics to pursue. It has an impact on the politics of Kashmir. What else has an impact?
There is hardly anything that has impacted us positively. One doesn’t know how far that will impact but it has an impact on international opinion. It makes the Indian position untenable and uncomfortable. So, to that extent how far it becomes the effect. It’s difficult to say. We have pursued separatist politics for thirty years but that has not paid us anything, not given us anything with all the sacrifices. So, here we were not doing anything, the People’s Alliance is only becoming a sort of pressure group and as I said, their unity and their position carry a weight.
So, to that extent, I think it is important. It makes the Indian position uncomfortable and maybe with the change of regime or change of balance of forces, they make an impact. They are not coming out to help people by serving them. They are pursuing politics, our type of politics. They are helping by challenging the uncertainty that has hit Kashmir and if they succeed, that’s going to help Jammu and Kashmir to regain its autonomy. If they fail, then Jammu and Kashmir is failing. But if they succeed, that is going to help us. That will secure our position, whatever the position we have lost.
See, there is hardly anything else that we have to pursue. There is hardly anything else that we can rely on at least for this limited objective of going back to the pre-August 5 position, at least regaining some of it. So, this is the only hope that they might be enabled to do it because they have recognition and they are together. Their politics depends on this. August 5 is a challenge; they are challenging those that have been brought in since 5 August 2019. Their success is good for us, at least we will get some security back. If they don’t, that would be unfortunate for us. We have already lost a lot, we are losing something more.
Assistant Professor, Department of Politics and Governance,
Central University of Kashmir
The formation of ‘alliances’ is not a new phenomenon in the politics of Jammu Kashmir. Many turbulent episodes in the recent past that were perceived as the onslaught of Indian state on the rights of the people were resisted through the formation of ‘alliances’, ‘coordination committees’ or the ‘united fronts’ across ideologies. So the alliance of the pro-India political groups in the form of “People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration” is not something new or revolutionary. Nomenclature of the “People” Alliance for these elites of Gupkar is itself a misnomer.
Though the constituents of this alliance come from different political groups, there is a fragile line that demarcates them as they are all bound by their common allegiance to the Indian constitution. In the ideological binary – pro-India vs. pro-Azadi, which defines the broader politics in Jammu Kashmir, all the constituents of this alliance represent the former.
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 Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) rather than challenging any status-co of the state. In case of pro-India politics, the discourse gets imported from outside and the leaders have to act upon the script that is written by the ‘Masters’ in New Delhi and supervised under multiple state agencies.
The tall claims of this alliance to bring back the ‘special status’ of Jammu Kashmir and oppose the right-wing politics of BJP is more rhetoric than reality. The weakening of asymmetric federalism under Article 370 happened over the years when the constituents of this alliance enjoyed power and two important groups in the alliance – National Conference (NC) and People’s Democratic Party (PDP), did not shy away to form a coalition with the same right-wing party that they claim as opponent now. Even Sajad Lone, who is its spokesperson, spoke highly of Narendra Modi’s leadership when he was benefiting from the patronage of the BJP.
Most of the politicians in the alliance had already lost credibility among the people the way they operated in the past to implement India’s nationalist project in Kashmir. In fact, their respective political groups were part of the structural violence which Kashmiri Muslim population faced for the last three decades. To believe that this alliance will prove a strong opposition to the BJP when most of the pro-Azadi resistance leadership is in jails is one more misnomer. There is an attempt to change an image of members of alliance from a politician concerned for electoral politics to that of leaders struggling for the lost ‘pride’ of Kashmir. This is 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 and this alliance is going to operate within this parameter. The changes in the land rights and project of ‘settler colonialism’ which is on the cards find no place in the ‘white paper’ of this alliance. The alliance is not more than a ‘manufactured dissent’, which is controlled, directed and limited by the Indian state, requisite for it to prove that democracy still prevails in the Valley. The alliance will last till the dates for the state assembly election are declared; the constituents of this alliance not only will disintegrate but also will seek to negotiate with the BJP to get back to the seats of power.