Restore the special status of J&K : Gupkar leaders
NEW DELHI (TIP): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday, June 24, told a group of leaders from Jammu and Kashmir that the Assembly elections there will be held after the completion of the ongoing delimitation exercise, People’s Conference leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig said after a crucial meeting to chalk out the future course of action in the Union Territory
This is the first interaction between the Central leadership and the mainstream parties since August 5, 2019, when the Centre revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated it into union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
Modi stressed that holding Assembly elections, just like the successful conduct of the District Development Council polls, is a priority and that the polls can happen soon after the delimitation exercise, the sources said, adding that by and large most participants expressed willingness for it.
The Prime Minister stressed that an atmosphere of safety and security needs to be ensured for all sections of society in Jammu and Kashmir and he wanted to remove ‘Dilli ki Duri as well as ‘Dil Ki Duri’ (distance from Delhi as well as distance of heart), according to the sources.
All the constituents of the Gupkar Alliance, including Dr. Abdullah and Ms. Mufti, reiterated their demand to restore the special status of J&K.
In a freewheeling three-and-a-half-hour interaction with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, J&K parties, across the political divide, find the common ground on deepening democracy, early process and taking the PM’s dialogue process forward.
“Building trust is very necessary. Restoration of full statehood will be the first trust building exercise from New Delhi,” Dr. Abdullah, NC president and the Gupkar alliance chief, said.
His son and former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said there has been a breach of trust between Delhi and Srinagar and requires measures from the PM, as he described the August 5, 2019 move as “unacceptable” and “being contested in the court” by the party.
“People do not like J&K’s status to be reduced to Union Territory (UT). They want the full State and J&K cadre restored,” Mr. Abdullah said. All the constituents of the Gupkar Alliance, including Dr. Abdullah and Ms. Mufti, reiterated their demand to restore the special status of J&K, as it existed on August 4, 2019 and “rebuild the broken relation with people of J&K”.
“People of J&K have been in pain since 5 August 2019. They are angry and feel humiliated. The people of J&K do not accept the unconstitutional, immoral and illegal abrogation of Article 370. My party and my party will fight peacefully and democratically for its restoration, even if it takes months or years. It’s about our identity. Article 370 was not something granted by Pakistan to us,” People’s Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti said. Ms. Mufti said she complimented the PM for initiating dialogue with China and Pakistan and insisted that India should talk to Pakistan for peace in Kashmir. “We also sought security on land, jobs and minerals of J&K and an end to any kind of intimidation. We also demanded the release of political leaders,” she added.
No concrete assurances
CPI(M) leader M.Y. Tarigami said both the Prime Minister and the Home Minister gave them a patient hearing as they expressed their concerns, demands and aspirations. “However, we did not get any concrete assurances from them,” he added.
Kashmir-based Peoples Conference (PC) and J&K Apni Party also sought special provisions on the issue of land and jobs during the meeting, while describing the meeting as “cordial and dignified”. However, these two parties did not discuss Article 370, saying “it’s sub judice”.
“I did suggest to the PM to incorporate 35(A) (special provision to secure jobs and land for locals) under Article 371. There was a thrust on getting together in strengthening democracy in J&K and the majority of leaders demanded restoration of statehood. The PM did suggest elections after the delimitation process completes its process and also promised on the restoration of statehood. After that, other issues will be taken up,” PC’s Muzaffar Hussain Baigh said.
J&K Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari said the meeting is likely to herald a new dawn for J&K. “Our party’s paramount demands have been restoration of Statehood, early assembly elections, delimitation on merit and constitutional mechanism that protects the rights of residents of J&K on their land, jobs and natural resources besides expediting the hearing of the Supreme Court on Article 370 and 35-A,” Mr. Bukhari said.
He said he was hopeful that J&K parties will be able to arrive at a sustainable and meaningful roadmap keeping in view the best interests and the welfare of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Senior BJP leader Kavinder Gupta said the meeting was “meaningful”. “All parties talked about the development of J&K and presented their opinions. In the time to come, the political process is going to begin. Assembly will be constituted in J&K once again,” Mr. Gupta said.
(With inputs from PTI)