The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), an alliance of seven parties in Jammu and Kashmir that is seeking the restoration of the erstwhile state’s special status, revoked by the Centre in 2019, is in effect an elegy for the demise of dynastic rule and power. The dynamics of history reflects the transition of an old order paving way for a new system – this holds true for both Abdullahs and Singhs (read Sheikh Abdullah and Maharaja Hari Singh). Monarchy and dynastic rule can’t be a permanent feature of a nation.
However, by coming up with this Gupkar alliance, former J&K chief minister and National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah presumes that he can undo the universal truth by a show of mob movement. But his popularity is an enigma. It has come to him essentially from being the son of late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, though many Kashmiris are strongly apathetic to dynastic rule. Dispassionately speaking, his contribution to Kashmir history is only a plethora of whims and eccentricities, all bandied in self-aggrandizement. Yet, he delights when told that he has a method in the madness.
His ideology of no accession to Pakistan, bequeathed to him by his illustrious father, is neither a whim nor an eccentricity. It does not mean either hate for Pakistan or love for India. He never supported the option of Kashmir for Pakistan because he knows very well how Pakistan would treat them- nothing more than hewers of wood and drawers of water. He has spent days in the UK living and interacting with Pakistanis and PoK diaspora. There are no takers of his bluff in Pakistan, but unfortunately in India, there is no dearth of them, and the Sheikh dynasty survived because its bluff worked with the Indians.
After grabbing power — offered on a platter in October 1947— “doublespeak” became an obvious political culture and tactical idiom of National Conference (NC) leadership, particularly Sheikh Abdullah and his lineal successors. Since in its early days, the NC had gathered momentum through mosque politics — now an encrypted tradition of Kashmir politicos — and the Sheikh had assiduously fathomed the naivety of Congress leadership- the “doublespeak” became almost a lethal instrument very deftly handled by the Valley leadership for seven long decades. Valley political heavyweights ensured that the bluff percolated down to the Kashmir feudalists, elites and the local bureaucratic segments, and finally to the unsuspecting plebeians. Interestingly, even other political groups pronouncedly differing with the NC in their political or ideological viewpoint, also found this Goebelian propaganda convenient and serviceable option to further their game plan. The Congress in power at the Centre was complacent with the doublespeak of the Valley leadership, as it considered it as short cut to good riddance. However, it was oblivious of the fact that it was inadvertently allowing the strong nationalist predisposition in Jammu region.
As Kashmir polity was rife with doublespeak, it revealed the duplicity of intentions and willful abandonment of conviction on the part of local leadership. The most disastrous outcome of this phenomenon was the widespread corruption in almost all facets of society that ingrained into the system. The civil society in general and the administrative structure in particular, began to believe that perpetuating a general loot of public assets was its birthright because Kashmir “an Islamic territory was occupied by a non-Islamic power”. The loot of the property raised by a non-Islamic ruling structure was permitted by faith as “mal-i- ghaneem” meaning enemy property meant for general loot. Therefore, whenever the ulema preached honesty, they added, the property of the non-Islamic entity was permitted to be looted. What the Indian Enforcement Department today calls scams, embezzlement, misappropriation, money laundering, hawala, illegal transactions; narcotic trade etc. was alien to the ears of Kashmiri leadership and the public, for their religion allowed it in the name of mal-i-ghaneem.
The Gupkar Alliance is not an alliance that has the welfare and development of Kashmir as its primary objective. Development of Kashmir along democratic, secular and egalitarian lines has neither been the objective of any political party nor the cementing force for unity among them. Even today, the alliance is the result of the lament for the loss of power and hegemony of one or two ruling houses and their ignominious auxiliaries, all pursuing the lone agenda of self-aggrandizement.
A look at the major partners of this alliance will substantiate this theory.
A case in point is the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). When late Mufti Mohammed Saeed formed the PDP, he publicly announced of getting rid of dynastic rule from J&K’s political landscape as one of the important agendas of his party. In fact, his daughter Mehbooba made it a major election plank, campaigned on its basis and won the election riding on it. Ironically, today she is one of the major partners of this alliance.
Similarly, Farooq’s one-time finance minister, a close associate in the Gupkar alliance, has a dubious record, albeit in his son’s name, who is alleged to have manhandled 170 crore rupees bank loan by purchasing properties in western countries and the Gulf in the name of setting up industries in J&K.
More importantly, the Roshni scandal through which more than two lakh kanals of forest lands were allegedly granted to the political leaders, bureaucrats, corporate houses, etc, at throw away price, causing a loss of billions to the state exchequer is a case in point. The scandal under the Roshni Act, which has been declared null and void by the high court, happened during the reign of Ghulam Nabi Azad, when he was the CM of J&K. It is alleged that the conspiracy was hatched in collaboration with Abdullah.
All these cases are an indication that the only aim of the Gupkar camaraderie is to reinstate dynastic rule in Jammu and Kashmir.
It may be noted that during its long stints in power, the NC did more harm to Kashmiriyaat than good. The citizens got alienated, thanks to the corrupt system that strengthened the hands of the creamy class of Kashmir at the cost of local entrepreneurs. The development schemes financed by the Centre were either siphoned off or abandoned, while the corrupt thrived.
Unfortunately, over the last few decades, major political parties in J&K pursued only a single track policy of blackmailing the Centre with falsehoods, canards and fabricated stories. The simple formula, which the Kashmir Valley leadership adopted in the course of insurgency beginning in 1989-90, was “Pakistan se bandook Hindustan se sandooq” (get arms from Pakistan to get funds from India).
Prime Minister Modi has understood the implications of Kashmir doublespeak. He has taken strong measures to contain blackmailing the central government and agencies. The easy flow of billions of rupees has stopped and the pockets of Valley leadership are going dry. Accountability has been initiated and the skeletons are crumbling one by one out of the cupboards of the leaders. Their involvement in monetary scams, in militancy empathy, in providing backdoor entries to government jobs to kith and kin, in looting the state exchequer, in corrupting society and services and in spreading falsehood and canards against India, are among their contribution to the development of Kashmir.
These stern measures by the Centre has hassled the Abdullahs and the Sayeeds. Now, they want Kashmir to return to the same old order so that their path to perfidy and scandal is thrown open. That, in short, is what the Gupkar Alliance is fighting for. They want people of the Valley to remain confined to straight-jacketed orthodoxy, allowing no liberal ideas to grow and flow within the society. Progress and development of Kashmir is a distant cry and what sustains the unholy alliance is anti-India proclivities at a time when even in Pakistan saner voices are asking Pakistani government to understand and appreciate the nation-building ideology pursued by Prime Minister Modi.
The NC leadership is now preparing to invite China to help them get rid of democracy and return to 14 centuries- old tribal social order to tell the world they are pure Muslims. If China can help Farooq recover the Kashmir Sultanate based on his religion, then Farooq should pay a visit to Yarkand, Kashghar, Khotan, Urumchi etc. and visit hundreds of concentration camps for the Uighur Muslims of Xinjiang to know what type of life they are living. Kashmiris have a long history of inviting foreigners to come and rule over them. Farooq is meticulously preserving the tradition laid down by Sarfi and his team way back in the closing days of the 16th century.