People Alliances for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a coalition of seven political parties of Jammu and Kashmir was formed in October 2020 with the purported aim of safeguarding the identity of the people of J&K.
By Farooq Wani
On August 5, 2019, the Narendra Modi led Govt bifurcated erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories (UT) – Jammu and Kashmir with legislature and Ladakh without legislature. Many developments pertaining to the UT of JK came into force and Murmu was appointed first lieutenant Governor of the newly created UT of J&K. Authorities swooped down on mainstream politicians and either jailed or put them under house arrest for a pretty long time.
However, with the passage of time slowly and gradually all the mainstream politicians were set free by the Govt. In the meantime, bureaucrat turned politician Shah Faisal and founder of JKPM, party quit politics leading to the split of this new political party, a move that ruined the future prospects of many new entrants with big dreams of removing the scourge of corruption in politics in Kashmir Valley.
People Alliances for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a coalition of seven political parties of Jammu and Kashmir was formed in October 2020 with the purported aim of safeguarding the identity of the people of J&K. The PAGD put up a grand public show of unity but the reality is that these political parties were once bitter political foes. The DDC polls signified a new epoch in the political history of J&K as everything from political participation to election results, could change drastically from what it had been in the past. Perhaps it was these tectonic changes which might have caused erstwhile adversaries to come together in the form of PAGD and field proxies in these elections.
Later, the Peoples Conference, headed by Sajad Gani Lone, pulled out of PAGD and caused a huge setback. However, Lone defended his decision to break away by saying,”Trust between allying partners who have been rivals all along can be very elusive and extremely fragile. Proxies have made it perpetually elusive,” he said.
The PAGD alliance, (which seeks the restoration of Article 370 and statehood to Jammu and Kashmir), has decided to attend the meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Jammu and Kashmir on June 24 in New Delhi. The Home Ministry has invited 14 Jammu and Kashmir leaders—former chief ministers, deputy chief ministers and party chiefs to the meet that will also be attended by Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister in PMO Dr Jitender Singh Rana, who hails from J&K. During this meeting, the Prime Minister will for the first time interact with all the political parties of the UT since August 5, 2019, when the Centre abrogated the state’s special status and bifurcated it into UTs.
Politicians of all constituents of PAGD are very well aware of how this entire process would be perceived by their supporters and prospective voters. Leaders of PAGD are in a dilemma. On the one hand they can’t afford to lose an opportunity to attend the PM’s meeting, while on the other hand, they don’t know what’s in store for them as the Centre has kept its cards very close to its chest. So, while they don’t want to be accused by the public of not meeting the PM and putting across the demand for restoration of Article 370 and statehood, they also know that if nothing meaningful comes out of this meeting, the PAGD would lose its relevance and thus lose public support.
The ongoing process of delimitation of constituency boundaries in Jammu and Kashmir, which will also increase the number of Assembly Constituencies (AC) from 83 to 90, could change electoral equations in the state. Several ACs have sub-regions dominated by different religious communities. If there were to be a calculated redrawing of boundaries, for example one that increases the share of Hindu population in some Muslim-dominated ACs, then the political arithmetic can change. So, these political parties have been forced to take the decision to attend because they have to show strength on ground, otherwise the political space will shrink for them and any boycott of polls will prove to be a disaster for them as they will have to face political death. Keeping these circumstances in view they had participated in DDC polls
Coming to the restoration of statehood to J&K, it seems Pakistan-backed militancy is likely to dissuade the Modi government from granting this concession, particularly at a time when both China and Pakistan are trying to escalate the security situation in the region.
Every party in J&K makes big promises to the people but fails to deliver after it comes to power. So, showing greener pastures to innocent people where there are none is not a genuine approach. Instead, mainstream politicians have in the past not only eroded the special status of JK but also destroyed generations by sending out mixed signals. The people of J&K thus need to be extremely watchful and not fall into a trap set by politicians in order to further their own vested interests!
LG Sinha led Government in Jammu and Kashmir is delivering much towards the cause of people and developmental programmes are going in the right direction. This is high time for the government of India not to accept any proposal from PAGD leaders which will derail development.
There is a new dawn in Jammu Kashmir as the region moves forward to enjoy all fruits of democracy and freedom guaranteed under the Constitution of India. The ball is now squarely in the court of the people; they can make or break their destiny and the future of their younger generations.
(The author is Editor of Brighter Kashmir, Columnist, TV Commentator and Political Analyst. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express.)