PAGD – Is JKPCC in or out?
The party has joined the poll alliance with the PAGD but distanced itself from its stand on issues like ‘restoration of the special status and statehood’.
Jammu and Kashmir Pradesh Congress Committee (JKPCC) had joined all parties meeting at Dr Farooq Abdullah’s Gupkar residence on August 4, last year, in which the participant parties unanimously passed a resolution, now known as Gupkar Declaration, pledging to safeguard the special status of J&K. Just a day later, the BJP government at the centre, divided the region into two Union Territories and abrogated the constitutional provisions of 370 and 35A, which granted the special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
On October 15, this year, the ‘Gupkar Declaration’ signatories including National Conference (NC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Peoples Conference (PC), Communist Party of India (CPI), Awami National Conference (ANC) and Jammu Kashmir Peoples Movement (JKPM, formed an alliance named as ‘People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration’ (PAGD), claiming that they will be jointly struggling for the ‘restoration of special status and statehood’ to J&K. The PAGD component parties have also entered in a seat-sharing agreement for the upcoming District Development Council (DDC) elections.
Here, the Congress party has played a dubious role. The party has joined the poll alliance with the PAGD but distanced itself from its stand and agenda on issues like ‘restoration of the special status and statehood’.
Randeep Surjewala, chief spokesperson of the Congress party, in his recent statement, announcing his party’s disassociation with the PAGD said, “The Congress party is not part of the ‘Gupkar Declaration’ or the ‘People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration’.” The Congress party’s ‘clarification’ came a day after the ruling BJP leader and Home Minister Amit Shah termed the PAGD an ‘unholy global alliance’ that along with the Congress wants to take back Jammu and Kashmir ‘to the era of terror and turmoil’.
Critics have questioned the Congress party for its U-turn, with some of them blaming the key opposition party for bowing down under the pressure of the ruling regime at centre and showing no guts to stand up with the principles. PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, the vice president of PAGD, also reacted to the Congress party’s disassociation from the alliance. She said that the BJP had forced the Congress on the defensive through false propaganda and this is why “this country lacks a robust opposition”.
However, some analysts say that Mehbooba Mufti’s controversial remarks about the national flag and Farooq Abdullah’s remarks seeking Chinese intervention for the restoration of article 370 have forced the Congress party to disassociate itself from the alliance.
Many also believe that Congress has always been deceptive to Jammu and Kashmir as far as its constitutional rights are concerned.
Kashmir Images spoke to several politicians and political analysts to know their views on the Congress party’s decision to disassociate itself from the PAGD.
While saying that the Congress party has disassociated itself from the PAGD, it must be kept in mind that there has not been any written agreement signed regarding the Alliance. As far as the DDC elections are concerned, PAGD parties have decided to have a seat-sharing arrangement on the ‘give and take’ basis and Congress is on board about this.
Secondly, we should not forget that constitutional guarantees to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 had been given to the people of the erstwhile state by none other than the Congress party. Even B R Ambedkar, who made India’s constitution, was the law minister in the Congress government headed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Clearly, all the provisions incorporated in the constitution, which granted a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, were consented by the Congress party’s leadership. We are the givers, not the takers.
It is a matter of record that when Atal Bihari Vajpayee brought a proposal suggesting abrogation of Article 370 into the parliament, Congress party and its leadership stood against the move. We told them that abrogation would mean breaking down the constitution and as well as the agreements between Jammu and Kashmir and the centre.
Congress has strongly opposed the BJP government’s unilateral move to abrogate these constitutional provisions, last year. We are already out there, inside and outside the parliament, opposing these changes. Congress working committee resolutions stand witness that we have pledged to fight for the restoration of the statehood and the special status to Jammu and Kashmir. Even as we have mentioned in our 2019 election manifesto, Congress will restore special status and the statehood to Jammu Kashmir, if it comes to power. This is a commitment made by a national level party. However, Congress cannot be expected to produce an affidavit confirming these commitments in front of some individuals. This is not how a national level political party functions. We refrained from taking part in the PAGD meetings because we always need to take all the leaders of the party on board, while taking any decision on such sensitive issues. It is Congress’s ‘Kashmir policy planning group’ which tackles and takes decisions on such issues. We keep the party’s perspective in mind while taking the decisions on issues having nationwide implications. The regional parties are only concerned with the local politics but as far as a national party like Congress is concerned, all aspects need to be seen on such issues.
First of all, let me say that Mr. Amit Shah’s recent tweet about the PAGD, in which he described the alliance with words such as ‘a gang’ and ‘an unholy alliance’, came as an expression of desperation by the Home Minister. Such comments from HM were avoidable and unwarranted. I have never heard such harsh comments from someone who is in parliament, throughout my political career. They (the BJP) even branded Congress with the harsh allegations.
Unfortunately, because of the certain number of problems, Congress is not providing the required resistance to the disastrous policies of the BJP, particularly vis-a-vis Kashmir.
The BJP, now and then, calls people ‘traitors’ and ‘anti-national’. Amit Shah’s unwarranted and disastrous utterances on the Gupkar alliance have virtually damaged the interest of the country and it has, unfortunately, pressurized Congress to withdraw from the alliance. However, there are many strong voices in this party, who do not succumb and who are still following the frame of the constitution. Many of the senior Congress leaders have said that they stand by the people of Kashmir for their struggle to protect their constitutional rights.
A leader like Gulam Nabi Azad has spoken on the floor of the Raja Sabha. We have also seen the comments of (Kapil) Sibal and Chidambaram regarding Kashmir. These leaders are not talking as individuals. They talk in the capacity of being senior Congress leaders. So please do not brand the entire Congress as something, which is against the aspirations of the people of Jammu, Kashmir, and Ladakh.
I also do criticize the Congress party for not being able to resist the pressure from this dispensation. I would like to suggest them not to succumb to the pressure from the Sangh Parivar and do not fall into the trap. Congress must pick up the courage and face these communal and divisive policies of the BJP with full strength.
It was the Congress party, which itself approached Dr. Sahib (Farooq Abdullah), to be part of the meeting on August 4, last year, in which it was pledged that special constitutional status to Jammu and Kashmir will be safeguarded. Senior Congress leader Taj Mohiuddin attended the meeting. Congress leaders such as G A Mir and others also participated in the subsequent meetings. They also confirmed that they were part of the Alliance (PAGD). Even for the poll alliance for the DDC elections, Congress came forward to join PAGD for the seat-sharing arrangement. Now they are saying that they are not with the agenda of PAGD. I think they (the Congress) are exposing themselves by pulling away from the alliance. Congress had a history of betrayal vis-à-vis Jammu and Kashmir, starting from the arresting of Sheikh Sahib (Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah) in 1953 and putting him under illegal detention for eleven years. As far as the PAGD is concerned the main agenda of this alliance is to fight for the restoration of Article 370 and 35A and to defend and to protect the special status of Jammu and Kashmir. For us, it does not matter whether the Congress party is with us or not. We are committed to pursue our cause. At this point, Congress is a weak party at the national level and they are also afraid of the BJP. That is why it distanced itself from the PAGD.
Congress party’s disassociation from the PAGD is indeed disappointing; however, it can’t deter the alliance partners from their resolve and commitment to fight for the restoration of the special status and the statehood to Jammu and Kashmir. Unfortunately, Congress has failed to show some courage to stand with the truth. It seems that the political agenda for this oldest party of the country is being set by the ruling BJP. After the abrogation of 370 and 35A provisions of the constitution, the Congress party should have vibrantly stood for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The opposition could have made people of the country understand whatever happened on August 5, last year was unlawful and an unconstitutional act. They should have told the country how the BJP government damaged the democratic and secular character of the country by revoking these Acts unilaterally and without the consent of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Nobody can deny the historical fact that Jammu Kashmir acceded to the Union of India after its people were assured and promised that identity and autonomy will be safeguarded under the constitutional provisions. The promise was made by Congress leadership itself. The party should have taken a stand against the revocation of the special status to J&K, but it seems the party is afraid of the BJP. It has failed to fulfil its responsibility as a key opposition party at the centre. PAGD is committed to fighting for the restoration of special constitutional status and the statehood to the J&K, even after Congress took its support away from the coalition.
Congress was part of the group, which met on August 4, last year. The party was also there when the ‘Gupkar Declaration’ was announced and the declaration had also the name of JKPCC chief GA Mir on it. When the ‘Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD)’ met after the release of Mehbooba Mufti, GA Mir said that he could not attend the meeting because he was unwell.
Now, the Congress party’s announcement about its disassociation from the alliance indicates that the party has been double-minded on this issue. Home Minister Amit Shah has rightly asked Congress to clarify whether it supports PAGD’s demand for the restoration of article 370 or not. On this issue, there should not be any ambiguity. Congress should come clean on this issue.
Now the Congress says that it is with the alliance parties just for seat – sharing for the DDC polls. But how can a seat-sharing arrangement be made unless you are not a part of the alliance? The parties like NC, PDP, PC, CPIM, CPI, ANC, and JKPM have come together under the banner of PAGD with a very clear stand on restoration of article 370. These parties have also forged a pre-poll alliance for DDC elections. They claim that their agenda is restoration of Article 370. Though, it is a different issue whether the DDC elections will give them any boost in their stated goal of restoration of article 370 or not. The DDC elections are meant for developmental purposes only. After the elections, the DDC is not going to offer a political platform like Assembly in which they can pass a resolution or bill in pursuit of their stated goal.
Congress seems to be confused on this matter. They don’t seem to know where to go and when to go. I think if somebody is calling the party opportunistic, he or she is not exaggerating.
As far as BJP is concerned, its stand on the article 370 has always been very clear. They don’t mince words on this issue. The party has been fighting for the abrogation of article 370 for the past seven decades. But why should Congress be defensive on this issue? They too must come clear on it. Article 370 was not invented by the BJP. It was invented by Nehru who was a hardcore Congressman. But what did Congress do about this article during its rule in Jammu and Kashmir? There have been several Congress Chief Ministers like Mir Qasim, GM Sadiq, and Gulam Nabi Azad, in the erstwhile state. What did they do? What did Congress do with the Autonomy resolution, passed by the assembly? How can Congress deny its history?
The fact of the matter is that Congress has been a big let down to the country. Its history in Kashmir has been a disaster.
For me, the Congress party’s disassociation from the local Alliance is not surprising. Being a national-level party, Congress cannot afford to support local sentiments openly on a sensitive issue like the demand for the restoration of 370, 35A, and the statehood. Though, the local leadership of the party wants to be part of the PAGD for its electoral gains here. However, PAGD agenda does not suit the party at the national level. That is why Congress seems to have no clear policy and stand on whatever happened on August 5, last year. They could have tried convincing people of the country that the abrogation of article 370 was not in favour of the larger national interest. However, they did not do it because they knew it would harm the party further.
On the other hand, BJP has a clear-cut policy on issues. BJP does not cover up its intentions and actions. BJP had always been saying that it would abolish the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and they did it. On the contrary, Congress has no clear policy neither on national issues nor on the issues related to Kashmir.
My personal opinion is that it is the Congress party, which is responsible for the ongoing crisis in Kashmir. Congress’s Kashmir policy has been disastrous since 1947. People of this region had fully supported the centre. The then-popular leader Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah had fully cooperated with the Congress leadership, but in return, it ditched him in 1953. Shifted him to jail and imposed Bakhshi Gulam Muhammad at his place, as the head of the state here. All the constitutional amendments to weaken the special status of Jammu and Kashmir were made during the Congress rule in Kashmir. They rigged elections and played a vital role to destroy the basic democratic structure here. Take the example of the recent past; Manmohan Singh’s government-appointed interlocutors for Kashmir and then did not adhere to the report and recommendations of its own interlocutors. The fact is that the Congress party never had an unambiguous policy on Kashmir nor do they have one even today.