Old J&K Flag as Symbol, Farooq Abdullah to Lead Tie-up for Return of Special Status
National Conference Chairperson Farooq Abdullah (Image: PTI)
The People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, which seeks the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir's special articles, took its challenge against the Centre to the next level by adopting the erstwhile state's flag as a symbol.
PAGD - an amalgam of six parties - also allotted positions to its members to carry forward what it called a "long and gruelling battle" to get back the scrapped special constitutional position. Last August, the Central government had revoked Article 370, and reorganised the erstwhile state into two union territories - UT of Jammu and Kashmir, and the UT of Ladakh.
The alliance named National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah as its President and People’s Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti as Vice-President. People's Conference leader Sajad Lone was chosen as the chief spokesman of the alliance while CPI(M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami and Lok Sabha MP from Anantnag Hasnain Masoodi were made convenor and coordinator of the alliance, respectively.
Almost all leaders of the Kashmir-based parties were detained and political activity came to standstill for a year after the Centre's move last year.
But ever since the leaders were released one after another, they began to hobnob for a few weeks before coming together to seek restoration of the special status. Mehbooba Mufti's release was a shot in the arm to these efforts.
The alliance will come out with a white paper within a month on governance in Jammu and Kashmir over the past one year since the abrogation of Article 370, Lone told reporters after the meeting.
"The white paper will not be rhetoric. It will be based on facts and figures to present the reality to the people of Jammu and Kashmir and around the country… An impression is being given that all the corruption had happened in Jammu and Kashmir only," Lone said.
"The best tribute as a symbol is to adopt the flag that would unfurl atop the secretariat in Jammu and Kashmir,” he added. The old state flag was pulled down from the civil secretariat offices in Srinagar and Jammu last year following the reading down of the contentious article.
Saturday's decision came a day after Mufti ruffled BJP feathers by pledging not to hold the tricolour until the state flag was returned. She had displayed her party's and Kashmir's flags in front of her table on Friday, irking the BJP leadership.
BJP activists had hit streets in Jammu against Mufti's remarks and blamed her for insulting the national flag. PDP leader Firdous Tak alleged that the party's Jammu office was attacked and and an attempt was made to assault him and his colleague. In Kupwara district, some activists burnt the effigy of Mufti and raised slogans against her.
Abdullah told reporters that BJP was spreading lies against local parties by saying they were anti-national.
“People’s Alliance is not anti-national. Yes we are certainly anti-BJP. They have tried to destroy the constitution of the country, divide the country, destroy its federal structure by what they did last year,” he said.
“But I want to tell them, we are not anti-national. We want the rights of people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh to be restored. Our fight is for that and we want nothing more,” he said.
Abdullah said the efforts to divide Jammu and Kashmir in the name of religion will fail.
“This is not a religious fight. This is for the identity of our Watan (nation). I want to tell you when we are talking of autonomy and article 370, we also talk of regional autonomy for the parts like Jammu and Ladakh,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mufti reacted to BJP state president Ravinder Raina's remark on pressing sedition charges against her for the tricolour statement. “The national flag stands for diversity and peaceful coexistence amongst all. If anyone has insulted the tiranga it is BJP that persecutes minorities and sows division and hatred. The Flag of India flag was disrespected the day BJP leaders carried it to justify rapists of a 9-year-old. Spare me the lessons,” she said in a tweet.
Mufti was referring to the protests in Jammu where some leaders and activists had taken out rallies in support of the men who allegedly gangraped and murdered a Muslim Bakerwal girl.