BY IRFAN BABA
There are two Gupkar Declarations. The first was held in the initial week of Aug’19, intended to safeguard Article 370. All the main stream political parties chipped in the declaration along with those who have been close allies of BJP including Sajad Gani Lone and Mehbooba Mufti. Astonishingly, on the very next day of Gupkar Declaration I, Article 370 was abrogated, thus exposed the competency of the leadership to gauge the situation. The facade of their defense mechanism shattered in less than 24 hours, manifested their fragile network that they have been able to establish in New Delhi over ages of loyalty, the loyalty that costed the aspirations of masses. The leadership failed shamefully to know the immediate and very next step of the Centre. Simultaneously deprecated their stand that even a common man could guess about the intentions of ruling party, yet seasoned politicians and policy makers of the state fizzled in accessing the situation. Vajpayee as the Prime Minister had aspired for fully majority in Parliament so as to strip Article 370 and Article 35-A. BJP was in consecutive second term with absolute majority when Gupkar Declaration was organized, therefore highlighted the late and casual approach of leadership towards Article 370 and Article 35-A.
Gupkar Declaration II was recently held, immediately after some of the senior politicians were released who were incarcerated post removal of special status of the state. It was again held under the leadership of Dr. Farooq Abdullah at his residence. The second declaration was purported to reinstate special status. This was again amalgamated by all parties including the close aides of BJP except PDP supremo Mehbooba Mufti who is still in jail. She however sent her representation. The ambiguity in Declaration 2.0 was that those who could not defend Kashmir’s Special Status exhibited commitment for its resurrection.
By 80’s Article 370 was squeezed to State Subject (under which only natives of Jammu and Kashmir could buy and sell the property in the state and do the government jobs) and Ranbir Pannel Code (Kashmir’s own constitution, which was on papers majorly, had hardly any implication on grounds). The leadership elected through manipulated elections time and again, mostly under the umbrella of Congress Party of India, sucked the prominent provisions of the Article. The leaders who tempered with the Article were: Sadiq, Bakshi besides major player Sheikh Abdullah and his successors. Later this gang was joined by Mufti family to uproot the remains of the Article.
Immaculate Article 370 offered Kashmir its own President, Prime Minister. Indian Citizens had to register their entry at Lakhanpur. Even the then Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawahir Lal Nehru was not allowed in the State without registering his entry. Parliament and Supreme court of India were both void in Kashmir. The army, found today in every nook and corner of Kashmir was not allowed to enter into the populations without proper permission of State Government. They were restricted to borders and barracks.
Article 35-A had a very supportive role for Article 370. India enjoys federal governance. This implies that country’s state assemblies hold distinctive powers. They can defy the Parliament rulings. However for certain situation where the whole county needed to be aligned, Presidential Ruling is applied i.e. the orders of The President of India are bound to be followed by all state assemblies without any challenge. Kashmir was however exempted from the President rulings under Article 35 A. Any order passed by The President of India was unchallengeable and applicable all over the country except Jammu and Kashmir.
As said, under Congress regime Article 370 was already hollowed by using Kashmir’s own leadership. This can be vouched that by now Congress would have wiped out the Article 370 and Article 35-A, completely without creating any chaos by taking the services of the same leadership who conducted both declarations. However BJP for its political gains successfully projected the Articles as ghosts and failure of the Congress to the people of the country. They smartly induced a misconception in the masses that the abolition of the Articles will integrate Kashmir with India comprehensively, though they could never explain that whose part was Kashmir then before the articles were stripped. Also whose part are other state of India like Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Arnuchal Pradesh, Aasam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizarom, Nagalan, Tripura and Utrrakhand, which enjoy special status.
To save its skin at International Community, Centre regarding the abrogation delivered some defensive statements. The prime statement was on the elevation of economic bar of Kashmir. A government which is struggling at economic front itself, whose GDP is historically in negative (-23%) claims to enhance economic conditions of Kashmir. The reports from various Indian and international agencies revealed that Kashmir’s per capita income was already much better than rest of India. This can also be understood by the fact that Kashmir incurred a loss of 40k cr. in the first six months post Article 370 against a sheet population of 6.5 million.
Technically Article 370 has not been abolished rather suspended. Any suspension can be revoked. Even Mr. P. Chidambaram Ex. Home Minister of India gestured it in the Parliament last year. Hence the Article has still chances, though with certain concerns. Mr. Prashant Bhushan raised doubts on the functioning of Judiciary. Going by this version, will court be able to deliver verdict in favor of Article in the current atmosphere. Even if it happens, will ruling party which is in absolute majority let it apply on grounds as they have options open in the Parliament? In such circumstance it is better to wait, wait and wait till situations are conducive enough to strike. This is the last opportunity which should be taken seriously and cashed patiently. Besides Congress needs to be kept in loop as they will prove helpful when time is ripe.
Being head of the Gupkar Declarations Farooq Abdullah in his first Parliament session after release was expected to speak on the Article; ironically he raised concern about the shortage of oxygen in Jammu Hospitals and defended his stance later with meek excuses. His act put a question on his sincerity. In fact the biggest hindrance in this fight is the sincerity of the leadership. They are the same people who ravel Article 370 once. Can the same people be trusted in a process to reinstate the Article? Are they seriously fighting for the Article? Do they want Article to be reinstated or just statehood which is must for their political survival? The time will tell everything and may show us more than we anticipate.
Irfan Baba is author of a novel entitled ‘Love and the Other World’, hails from Srinagar-Kashmir. He is MBA by qualification and works as a manager in a reputed pharma corporate house, can be reached at [email protected]