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To push for J&K status restoration campaign, Gupkar alliance reaches out to Jammu

People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration spokesman and CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami says Kashmir cannot march ahead without Jammu, and that Jammu cannot ignore Kashmir and Ladakh

Written by Arun Sharma | Jammu |
December 14, 2021 7:54:34 pm
The Gupkar amalgam leaders have now started visiting Jammu to initiate dialogue with members of the civil society here as they feel that there could not be any forward movement over the issue without involving the Jammu people. | PTI/file

More than a year after its creation by mainstream parties to seek restoration of Jammu & Kashmir’s statehood and special status under Articles 370 and Article 35A, the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) is seeking to reach out to Jammu to take its people on board for the campaign.

The Gupkar amalgam leaders have now started visiting Jammu to initiate dialogue with members of the civil society here as they feel that there could not be any forward movement over the issue without involving the Jammu people.

“As far as we are concerned, including PAGD and other constituents, there is a strong feeling that there will be no forward movement without representation from Jammu, or without any credible dialogue with the cross section of people including civil society in Jammu,’’ said CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami while talking to media persons here Monday. Tarigami is also PAGD spokesperson.

Asserting that lessons should be learnt from farmers who despite hailing from different states and having different ideologies joined hands and eventually forced the BJP-led Central government to repeal farm laws, Tarigami said, “Kashmir cannot march ahead without Jammu and likewise Jammu too can’t ignore Kashmir and Ladakh,” adding “We have to move together over the issue as this is for us an article of faith.’’

The CPI(M) leader pointed out that people in all the J&K regions have been linked with each other through their history and have common interests as well. “We have to identify the areas where we can agree and we have every right to disagree as well,’’ he said. “We must explore those possibilities where there are some sort of commonalities which can be abiding force for all of us to move together so that some relief is provided to the people of Jammu as well as Kashmir.’’

When asked about growing differences between various PAGD constituents, especially between the Farooq Abdullah-led National Conference (NC) and Mehbooba Mufti-led PDP, Tarigami said, “We have not merged together, so we have every right to differ on certain issues,’’ stressing on focusing on “commonalities” and working out a “right plan” and “united approach” on such issues. “That is why I have come to request civil society and political activists here.”

Later, he called on Prof Bhim Singh, president of J&K National Panthers Party and discussed the initiatives proposed by recognized J&K political parties.

Tarigami pitched for a united fight for restoration of statehood to J&K and expediting holding of Assembly elections. He is one of the PAGD’s three key constituents, the other two being the NC and the PDP. Its other constituent Awami National Conference does not have a significant mass base in Kashmir and Jammu divisions, observers say.

While the Jammu Kashmir People’s Conference moved out of the Gupkar alliance early this year with its leader Sajjad Lone citing differences with leaders of other parties, the Congress had distanced itself from it since the outset.

With ground shrinking for both the NC and the PDP even in Kashmir with the emergence of new political parties like the Apni Party, the PAGD does not seem to be left with much option other than mobilising the people of Jammu in their campaign for restoration of J&K’s special status and statehood. The point however remains that a sizeable section of the Jammu people is believed to have a feeling of discrimination at the hands of Kashmir-centric politicians over the years.

Top NC leaders and former chief ministers, Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, have also started holding rallies in the Jammu region since November, where they have been trying to convince people how Articles 370 and 35A were important for protecting their interests in respect to land, jobs and their identity.

Pointing out that the Union Territories (UTs) of J&K and Ladakh were carved out of the state of J&K

in the wake of abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, Omar, at a rally in Ramban, asked, “If in Ladakh, jobs are secured for children and safeguards provided to people there in respect to land apart from scholarships and their voting rights under the old state subject laws, then why not the same law for us,” adding “We are asking for similar treatment for both the UTs which were created on August 5, 2019.’’

Addressing Kashmiri Pandits at the NC headquarters in Jammu, Farooq refuted allegations that jobs have been taken away by Muslims in the state. He said Muslims did not take the jobs as they were not educated before 1947. Pointing out that Muslims are also part of India and constitute a majority of the J&K population, he asked, “doesn’t he (a Muslim) need a job”, and “whether he has to remain unemployed”, going on to add that this “hatred” is being created even today and that people could not live in peace until it is eliminated.

Unable to cut much ice with people in Hindu-dominated areas in Jammu, which are known as BJP strongholds and for their stand against dialogue with Pakistan and restoration of Article 370, the NC and PDP are also faced with a challenge being mounted by senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad in the region’s Muslim-dominated areas of Pir Panjal and Chenab Valley. A common theme emerging at Azad’s meetings there reflects a grudging acceptance of scrapping of J&K’s special status.

Azad has maintained there was no point in harping on restoration of Article 370 as the matter has been pending before the Supreme Court. At a rally in Poonch, Azad said any government could bring back Article 370 only if it had 300 MPs in Parliament, and that he did not see the Congress getting as many in 2024.

He also claimed the “government has agreed to our demand to hold Assembly elections, conduct delimitation, and restore statehood”, and that he has demanded that the last two of these be done prior to the Assembly polls. The ex-CM also demanded that a Bill be brought to safeguard people’s rights to land and jobs.

Cautious not to tread on the divide between Kashmir and Jammu, or between Gujjars and Paharis, Azad has avoided any hot-button issues in his speeches, sticking only to matters relating to governance and development.

At a time when mainstream parties of J&K are trying to make inroads into each other’s bastions and political space seems increasingly fragmented, the PAGD evidently knows the significance of Jammu division, where the the areas of Jammu, Udhampur, Samba and Kathua, and parts of Reasi, Ramban, Doda and Kishtwar had given the BJP 25 seats in 2014 Assembly polls, thereby fuelling it to storm to power in the state in coalition with the PDP.

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