The all-party meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir concluded after more than three hours on Thursday, 24 June, with the attendees later telling the media that the Centre expressed its commitment to the restoration of statehood.
"The Home Minister (Amit Shah) said the government is committed to granting statehood to Jammu and Kashmir. All leaders demanded full-fledged statehood," Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad was quoted as saying after the meeting.
‘Important Step Towards a Progressive J&K’
Tweeting after the meeting, PM Narendra Modi said it was “an important step in the ongoing efforts towards a developed and progressive J&K, where all-round growth is furthered.”
"Our priority is to strengthen grassroots democracy in J&K. Delimitation has to happen at a quick pace so that polls can happen and J&K gets an elected Government that gives strength to J&K’s development trajectory," he tweeted.
Meanwhile, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the meeting was conducted in a "very cordial environment," with the future of Jammu and Kashmir being discussed.
"Everyone expressed their commitment to democracy and the constitution. It was stressed to strengthen the democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir... We are committed to ensure all round development of J&K. The future of Jammu and Kashmir was discussed and the delimitation exercise and peaceful elections are important milestones in restoring statehood as promised in parliament," Shah said in his tweets.
The meeting at the prime minister’s residence in New Delhi was attended by political heavyweights from the Union territory, including National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah, PDP chief Mehooba Mufti and Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad, among others.
As many as 14 J&K leaders from different political parties, including the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference (NC), were invited for the meeting.
The meeting was touted as the first such exercise to be held between the Centre and Kashmir’s mainstream political leaders since the revocation of J&K's statehood in 2019.
‘Full-Restoration of Statehood Will Be the First Trust-Building Exercise’
After the talks concluded, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah emphasised on the importance of building trust in Jammu and Kashmir, saying that restoration of full statehood of J&K will be the first trust-building exercise from the New Delhi side.
His son, National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah, said the PM was told about their opposition to what was done on 5 August 2019, when the decision to revoke J&K’s special status and bifurcate into two Union Territories was announced in the Parliament.
"... We also told the PM that there's been breach of trust between the state and the Centre. It's Centre's duty to restore it," he was quoted as saying by ANI.
"“We requested the PM that our fight will continue but it’s essential to reverse some decisions that aren’t at all in the interest of J&K. It was given the status of a UT, people don’t like it. They want full statehood for J&K, with the J&K cadre restored.”" - Omar Abdullah, as quoted by ANI
Meanwhile, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti also said she told the PM that the people of J&K don't accept the manner in which Article 370 was abrogated "unconstitutionally, illegally and immorally."
"“The people of J&K will struggle constitutionally, democratically, peacefully. Be it months or years, we’ll restore Article 370 in J&K as it’s a matter of our identity.”" - Mehbooba Mufti, as quoted by ANI‘PM Assured to Make J&K a Zone of Peace Rather Than Conflict’
Congress' Ghulam Nabi Azad pointed out that five demands were kept in the meeting, including granting of statehood soon, conducting Assembly elections to restore democracy, rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits, release of all political detainees, and one pertaining to domicile rules.
"Almost 80 percent of parties spoke on Article 370, but the matter is sub-judice in court," he added.
J&K Apni Party leader Altaf Bukhari too pointed out that the PM said they were committed to the restoration of statehood, adding that the talks were held in a "good atmosphere."
"The prime minister heard issues of all the leaders. The PM said that election process will begin when delimitation process finishes... The PM asked all to participate in the delimitation process. We have been assured that this is the roadmap towards elections," Bukhari was quoted as saying by ANI.
PM Modi assured that he will do everything to make J&K a zone of peace rather than conflict, People's Conference leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig was quoted as saying after the talks. No time frame was given on holding the Assembly elections in J&K, he added.
The Delimitation Process
The bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories alongside the effective revocation of Article 370 had set the ball rolling for a delimitation exercise to be carried out in the region, a matter that was raised at the meeting on Thursday.
The talks over carrying out delimitation have been renewed as Deputy Election Commissioner Chandra Bhushan Kumar organised virtual meetings with 20 deputy commissioners from J&K on Wednesday, The Hindu had reported.
(With inputs from ANI, PTI and The Hindu)
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