The August 22 resolution of the entire collectivity of non-separatist political parties in Jammu and Kashmir, bar the BJP, to strive for the restoration of the former state with the constitutionally mandated guarantee of built-in autonomy that had prevailed since Independence, is a politically formidable sign of a peaceful fight-back by the people of J&K.
It is noteworthy that two national parties the Congress and the CPI(M) are a part of this resolve.
This makes it a supra-regional aspiration and confers a wider recognition on the resolve.
On August 4 last year, a day before the Centre cracked down on J&K by denuding it of its constitutionally-mandated autonomy without discussion in a coup like manoeuvre, and laid siege to Kashmir valley with troops as though there was a war on, the valley politicians showed acuity in passing what has come to be known as the Gupkar Declaration.
Perhaps they had their suspicions looking at the goings-on, and did not take at face value the false assurance given their key leaders by Prime Minister Narendra Modi just days earlier in New Delhi that no new moves were being contemplated in respect of J&K.
At the residence of former CM and Srinagar MP Farooq Abdullah, the traditional mainstream parties gathered to underline that they would remain united in upholding Kashmir’s identity and its constitutional status. Regional parties that were rivals for power came together on a common platform, most notably Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP, also a former CM.
It is these very parties that re-assembled once again at Dr Abdullah’s residence on Srinagar’s Gupkar Road last Saturday to re-affirm their allegiance to the Gupkar Declaration and to underline that their politics henceforth would be “subservient” to the cause of restoration of J&K’s autonomy and its statehood, in effect the undoing the dilution of Article 370 and jettisoning of Article 35A. Ms Mufti is still in detention and could not be present but is thought to endorse this step.
The unity of the J&K parties to endeavour to turn the clock back has come at a time when the separatist camp is in disarray after the evidently voluntary withdrawal from the political space of the nonagenarian Syed Ali Shah Geelani. The people of Kashmir went into a state of shock and acute depression after the dismantling of Kashmir’s special status on August 5, 2019.
It is in that state that they were given a stiff dose of military-style repression by the Centre, with thousands, including the entire mainline political leadership put in jail. The Centre appeared determined to create a new politics in Kashmir through the artificially devised Apni Party, which seems to have vanished into the blue.
The new turn in events suggests that the obituary of mainstream politics (since they too had been jailed, like the separatists, under the RSS-BJP dispensation) was premature.
It is evident that repression has not worked as a tactic in J&K. Kashmir’s riposte has come through a show of peace and unity. If that resolve is sustained, New Delhi has a problem on its hands unless it can show wisdom in the changed situation.