Over a year after the abrogation of Article 370 that gave special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, several political parties came together to form an alliance with an aim to demand its restoration.
The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) or Gupkar Alliance, as it’s known, is chaired by National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah and consists of National Conference, People’s Democratic Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Jammu & Kashmir People’s Movement, Awami National Conference.
PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti is the vice-chairperson.
On August 5, 2019, the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into two Union Territories J&K and Ladakh. “Statehood would be given to Jammu & Kashmir at an appropriate time,” Home Minister Amit Shah had told Lok Sabha amid criticism over the decision.
The Home Minister had also promised that “assembly polls will be held in a free, fair and democratic manner”.
On August 4, 2019, a day before Article 370 was revoked in the parliament, leaders of all political parties in the erstwhile state, except for the BJP, gathered at the residence of Farooq Abdullah at Srinagar’s Gupkar Road. A joint statement was issued in the defence of Article 370, which then came to be known as the “Gupkar Declaration”.
In October 2020, the leaders of these parties met again and the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) was announced. The group signed the Gupkar Declaration to continue working towards restoring Article 370.
The Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference, however, exited the alliance in January 2021, owing to differences with other members.
Arrests and internet shutdown
The Centre had revoked Article 370 and 35A on August 5, 2019, and stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special status, its statehood. It was also split into two Union Territories: Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh under the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019.
Top political leaders including Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar, Mehbooba Mufti were placed under house arrest following the move. Internet services were suspended in the region in a bid to curb spread of potential backlash.
The internet ban which lasted almost 18 months, until February 2021, has been by far the longest by any democracy. The Supreme Court called an indefinite shutdown of the internet in the state unwarranted and demonstrated “abuse of power” by the ruling party.
Farooq Abdullah was released from his seven-month house arrest in March 2020. His son Omar was released after nearly two weeks after him. However, Mehbooba Mufti’s house arrest was revoked only in October 2020.
The Gupkar Alliance and elections
The District Development Council (DDC) polls were the first major elections in J&K after the revocation of Article 370. The PAGD won 110 out of 280 seats, while the BJP secured only 74, but emerged as the single largest party.
National Conference won 67 seats followed by PDP with 27 seats, People’s Conference took 8 seats, CPI(M) won 5 seats and J&K Peoples Movement only 3 seats.
On August 15, 2020, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the J&K will have Assembly Elections after the delimitation process in the Union Territory was over.
Speculation regarding the possibility of Assembly Elections in Jammu and Kashmir is rife after the Centre sent out an invitation to the 14 key political leaders for a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the national capital on June 24, Indian Express reported.
The meeting is being seen as PM Modi’s first major outreach to end the political impasse. The Gupkar alliance has confirmed they will meet the PM.