The image of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K)’s former chief ministers, Farooq and Omar Abdullah, visiting the just-released former CM, Mehbooba Mufti, and their subsequent declaration of a People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, is significant. Given the rapid pace at which events have unfolded in J&K over the past year, it is easy to forget that the National Conference (NC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have been arch-rivals for over two decades. The Abdullahs saw both the late Mufti Mohammed Sayeed and his daughter as political agents propped by the Centre to undercut them, while the Muftis blamed the NC and its compromises with New Delhi as responsible for Kashmir’s fate.
But now, both the NC and the PDP recognise that their political survival is itself at stake. Mainstream Kashmiri parties stood against terrorism sponsored by Pakistan, but always sought, in principle, a degree of autonomy within India. The effective nullification of Article 370 has put an end to these political aspirations. They have found themselves blamed for having surrendered to Delhi on the Kashmiri street, while Delhi’s establishment sees them as untrustworthy. Both parties now recognise that it is only by putting up a joint front that they can extract a renegotiation of Kashmir’s status within India. And while they cannot give up their demand for the restoration of Article 370, a more realistic goal is asking for statehood.
This unity between Kashmir’s democrats actually is a positive development, for it allows the Centre to reach a comprehensive accommodation with all of them. Otherwise, it would be easy for one Kashmiri faction to accuse the other of “selling out”. Delhi should start a sincere dialogue to restore normalcy.
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