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Gupkar Declaration turns into official alliance in J&K, but Congress skips crucial meet

At a meeting organised by Farooq Abdullah after Mehbooba Mufti’s release from detention, Gupkar Declaration signatories demand return of special status to J&K.

Signatories to the Gupkar Declaration, including Farooq and Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, announce their political alliance in Srinagar Thursday | Photo: ANI
Signatories to the Gupkar Declaration, including Farooq and Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti | Photo: ANI

Srinagar: Most political entities that signed the Gupkar Declaration in Jammu and Kashmir on 4 August 2019 have now formed an official alliance, aimed at restoring J&K’s special status and statehood.

At a meeting Thursday, organised at the residence of National Conference president and Srinagar MP Farooq Abdullah, the NC, Mehbooba Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party, Sajjad Lone’s People’s Conference, Congress splinter group Awami National Conference, IAS officer Shah Faesal-founded People’s Movement and the CPI(M), represented by Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami, joined the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration.

Two other signatories to the declaration, Engineer Rashid’s Awami Ittehad Party, and more significantly, the Indian National Congress, did not attend the meeting.

Also read: Gupkar Declaration a blessing in disguise for the Modi govt to set things right in Kashmir

What is Gupkar Declaration?

The parties had signed the Gupkar Declaration on 4 August 2019, which turned out to be a day before the Narendra Modi government abrogated Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that provided special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and decided to bifurcate the state into two union territories — J&K and Ladakh.

The declaration was a bid to protect the special status of J&K by standing united, and said any move to tinker with it would be “considered as aggression against the people of J&K”.

However, the Modi government put many political leaders under detention or house arrest to “protect the peace” after making its 5 August move. Others were released at various times in 2019 and 2020, but former CM Mehbooba Mufti was just released this week, which is why the first meeting of the Gupkar Declaration signatories was held now.

As soon as the meeting ended Thursday afternoon Farooq Abdullah and the others announced the formation of the alliance. “Our battle is a constitutional battle. We want the government of India to return to the people of the state the rights they held before 5 August 2019,” said former CM and Union minister Abdullah.

He added that among the primary demands of the new alliance was an immediate release of all individuals detained after Article 370 was abrogated.

“At the same time, we appeal that the political issue of the state has to be resolved as quickly as possible and that it can only be resolved by dialogue with peaceful means with all the stakeholders who are involved in the problem of J&K,” Abdullah said.

Abdullah added that Thursday’s meeting was hurriedly planned upon Mehbooba Mufti’s Tuesday release. She had been detained for 14 months under the Public Safety Act.

Who didn’t attend?

The two signatories of the Gupkar Declaration who didn’t attend the meeting were Engineer Rashid’s AIP and the Congress. The AIP had signed the declaration as part of its alliance with the Shah Faesal-founded People’s Movement, together known as People’s United Front. Engineer Rashid himself is currently in Delhi’s Tihar jail, while Shah Faesal quit politics a few months ago, but People’s Movement representatives were present at the meeting.

However, the more conspicuous absence was that of the Congress. Senior Congress leader Taj Mohiuddin, who had attended the signing of the declaration, did not attend the meeting, nor did the party’s J&K chief G.A. Mir, who said he was invited but couldn’t attend due to medical reasons.

“It was a kind of a first get-together after 14 long months. I was also invited by Dr Farooq Abdullah. However, I have spent the last eight days attending public meetings in Jammu and I have had a very busy schedule in Kashmir too. I have remained engrossed in activities as senior Congress leader Rajni Patil was visiting J&K,” Mir told ThePrint.

“Doctors advised that I undergo a medical check-up. To ensure the safety of others amid the threat of Covid, I called Dr Abdullah and asked him to excuse me,” Mir said.

Asked if he supported the meeting and the decision taken at it, Mir said: “I was not part of today’s meeting, but I was honoured by the invitation. I don’t know much of the content. When I am in the meeting, you can ask me if I support the content or not.”

Also read: Kashmir’s new politics should not be one that goes through Gupkar again