Full statehood should be restored in J&K: Sajad Lone on the Gupkar alliance and the future of Kashmir

31 August 2021
Shahid Tantray for The Caravan
Shahid Tantray for The Caravan

Sajad Lone is the chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference party. Lone’s father, Abdul Gani, founded the party in 1978. In 2002, suspected militants gunned down Abdul Gani while he was attending a remembrance meet of another Kashmiri leader. Lone took over the People’s Conference after his father’s death. Towards the beginning of his political career, Lone advocated for an independent Jammu and Kashmir and was part of the Hurriyat Conference. Over the years, he began to take a pro-India stance. In the 2014 assembly elections in the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state, Lone won from the Handwara constituency, in north Kashmir. His party later joined the alliance of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Democratic Party, which went on to form the government in the state. Lone was appointed a minister in the BJP-PDP regime, which fell in June 2018.

In August 2019, the Indian government revoked Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and Article 35A of the Indian constitution. It bifurcated the state into union territories, intensified the militarisation in the region and enforced a brutal communications blockade. The night before the announcement, Lone was arrested alongside various other mainstream politicians from Kashmir. He would stay in detention for a few days short of an year. In late 2020, mainstream political parties in Kashmir formed an umbrella group called the People’s Alliance for the Gupkar Declaration, or PAGD, whose demands include the restoration of Article 370 and statehood. Lone was appointed the spokesperson for the PAGD, which has since held various talks with the Narendra Modi-led central government. 

In January this year, the People’s Conference withdrew from the PAGD. In a letter to the PAGD leadership, Lone cited the allocation of seats in the recent District Development Council elections in Kashmir as the reason behind his exit. He stated that “no party is willing to sacrifice” and that “we fought against each other in Kashmir province not against the perpetrators of August 5.” In June, the union home ministry invited Kashmir’s mainstream political leadership, including the members of the PAGD and Lone, for a dialogue with the prime minister Narendra Modi. Lone was reportedly the first to accept the centre’s invitation.

In July, Shahid Tantray, a multimedia reporter with The Caravan, spoke to Lone at length. They discussed the meeting with the prime minister, Lone’s approach to politics in Kashmir, and his hopes for the future of the region.

Shahid Tantray is a multimedia reporter at The Caravan. He tweets at @shahidtantray.

Keywords: Article 370 Article 35A Gupkar Alliance Jammu and Kashmir Kashmir