Cong, PAGD constituents announce participation in PM’s All-Party Meet

PAGD leaders addressing a press conference in Srinagar. -Excelsior/Shakeel
PAGD leaders addressing a press conference in Srinagar. -Excelsior/Shakeel

Will talk on all issues; put our stand before PM, HM: Farooq
*Meeting a proud moment, says BJP; BSP sulks for no invite

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, June 22: All political parties including the Congress and constituents of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) have announced their participation in the All-Party Meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on June 24.
The Congress and PAGD constituents including NC, PDP and CPM announced their decision to attend the Prime Minister’s meeting today while the BJP, Apni Party, People’s Conference and Nationalist Panthers Party have already made it clear that they will participate in the talks.
Senior Congress leaders met virtually this evening under the chairpersonship of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and decided that they will be joining the Prime Minister’s meeting on Jammu and Kashmir, PCC spokesman Ravinder Sharma announced here after the meeting.
Other leaders who attended the meeting include former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Dr Karan Singh, P Chidambaram, both former Ministers, Ghulam Nabi Azad, ex Chief Minister of J&K who is also an invitee to the meeting, Rajni Patil, Incharge J&K Affairs of the Congress, GA Mir, PCC (I) chief and Tariq Hamid Karra, former Minister.
A brief statement issued by the Congress said the party after a high-level meeting chaired by the party president Sonia Gandhi has decided to participate in the scheduled All Party Meeting called by the Prime Minister on 24th June.
Meanwhile, the PAGD today also announced that it will attend the All Party Meeting convened by Narendra Modi. Click here to watch video
The announcement was made by PAGD chairman and NC president Dr Farooq Abdullah at whose Gupkhar Road residence the PAGD leaders met this morning.
“We have received the invitation from the Prime Minister and we are going to attend (the meeting),” Dr Abdullah, who was flanked by other leaders of the Alliance, told reporters after the meeting.
The PAGD chairperson said the Alliance was confident that it would be able to put its stand before the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister during the meeting at New Delhi.
“When the meeting ends, we will brief you here as well as in Delhi on what we did there, what we said and what was their response,” Farooq said.
Asked what would be the stand of the Alliance, he said, “You all know our stand and there is no need to repeat it.”
“Whatever our stand was, is still there and will be there,” he added.
Various constituents of the PAGD have approached the Supreme Court with a petition asking for the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and its statehood.
The PAGD is a six-party alliance of mainstream parties which came into existence after the Centre revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370.
Dr Abdullah said all those invited will attend the meeting.
“(PDP chief) Mehbooba ji, me, (CPI-M leader) Tarigami Sahab and all those who have been invited from us (the Alliance), will go,” he said.
As the invitation is to individual leaders of various parties “they all will go and all will speak there”, the NC leader added.
Asked about the agenda of the meeting, Dr Abdullah said “no agenda has been pitched from their side (the Centre)”.
“We can talk about any issue there,” he added.
Gupkar Alliance Vice Chairperson and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said peace in the region cannot be restored without undoing the “illegal” and “unconstitutional” act of revocation of the special status of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir.
Speaking to reporters at the end of the PAGD meeting, she said during the meeting with the Prime Minister on Thursday, she will press for the restoration of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir which was “snatched away from us”.
“The agenda of the PAGD, for which this Alliance has been formed, what has been snatched away from us, we will talk on that, that it was a mistake and it was illegal and unconstitutional, without restoring which the issue of J-K (cannot be resolved) and the situation in J-K (cannot improve) and peace in the whole region cannot be restored,” she said.
Mehbooba said the Centre should hold dialogue with everyone including Pakistan to resolve the Kashmir issue.
“They (India) are talking to the Taliban in Doha. They should talk with everyone in Jammu and Kashmir and with Pakistan as well for the resolution (of Kashmir issue),” she said.
The PDP president said her party was never against dialogue with the Centre, but wanted some confidence-building measures for the people of Jammu and Kashmir like release of prisoners as in other parts of the country due to COVID.
She said the political prisoners and other detainees from J-K should have been released if the Centre truly wanted to reach out to the people of J-K and to the political parties who were “humiliated so much” over the last two years.
“I think they should have done so, but it does not mean that we are against the dialogue,” she said.
The PDP president said she wanted Dr Farooq Abdullah as the head of the PAGD to represent the Alliance for the Prime Minister’s meeting, but “he (Abdullah) said as the leaders have been invited individually, so we all should go individually”.
Talking to reporters, PAGD spokesman and CPI (M) leader M Y Tarigami also hinted at seeking the restoration of the special status of the erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir during the meeting with the Prime Minister.
“We will not ask for the stars, but will seek what has been ours and should be ours only. As we have no information on the agenda of the meeting called by the PM, we will reiterate the stand of the PAGD there, before the highest leadership,” he said.
The CPI (M) leader said the meeting with the Prime Minister was an opportunity and assured the people of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh that the leaders were going to Delhi to “advocate on their behalf”.
“We will advocate in that court on the behalf of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. We will appeal to the PM of India about safeguarding the guarantees under the Constitution, which we have been given before, and to reconsider them,” he said, apparently referring to the erstwhile State’s special status.
Tarigami said there should be no misconception among the people that the alliance leaders were going to sign on to the agenda set by the Centre.
“No, we are not. We are going to see what proposal the PM of India has. If it is in our interest, the interest of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, then we will say yes and if otherwise, there is going to be a big no,” he said.
Meanwhile, J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina today welcomed the decision of the PAGD to take part in the scheduled All Party Meeting to be chaired by the PM in Delhi, saying “we all must unite in the interest of the nation and work for ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’”.
Raina also thanked the Prime Minister for convening the meeting and said he had always shown his big heart for Jammu and Kashmir by addressing developmental issues and providing justice to the deprived communities.
“Prime Minister has convened a meeting of J&K parties on June 24 and it is a proud moment for all of us. We will utilize this opportunity to raise the issues of public interest and talk about strengthening the nation to keep its flag flying high,” Raina told reporters after an emergency Meeting of the party here.
He said the Centre has extended the invitation to J&K parties with an open mind and heart and it is now the responsibility of the invitees to reciprocate and join the meeting.
Asked about his reaction to the decision of the PAGD to take part in the meeting, the BJP leader said “it is very good that all political parties are taking part in the meeting. We have already announced that I along with my colleagues are joining the meeting”.
“It is a very important meeting and when the Prime Minister is on the chair it has its own sanctity. All issues of public interest will be discussed,” he said, adding “we will need to join hands to speak in one voice for our nation and the tricolor. We should strengthen the pledge of ‘Ek Bharat Shreshtha Bharat’.”
He said Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India but “lakhs of people” have lost their lives due to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism over the past 35 years and many others including Kashmiri Pandits, Sikhs and nationalist Muslims were compelled to migrate at gun point.
“J&K people are Indian by heart and the tricolor is in their hearts. Every child is Indian and loves India,” Raina said, adding it is Pakistan which has destroyed J&K and tried to turn it into a graveyard.
However, he said the Indian Army, police and paramilitary forces along with Modi-led Government gave a befitting reply to the anti-national forces and even attacked them in their safe sanctuaries.
As far as talks are concerned, he said India has always tried to have good relations with its neighbours. “We have good relations with the nations across the globe but national unity and integrity is supreme for us. The territorial integrity and sovereignty is our priority and will remain so.”
Meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party has hailed the political outreach of the Prime Minister and hoped that the June 24 All-Party Meet will facilitate commencement of a political process in the Union Territory that will lead to genuine empowerment of its people.
The Apni Party held a meeting in which it said the party president Altaf Bukhari has been authorized to “represent the wishes and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir in the Prime Minister’s meeting.”
Jammu and Kashmir unit of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has expressed its resentment for not being invited to the All-Party Meeting.
BSP president S R Majotra said his party represents the sentiments of Scheduled castes and a majority of Other Backward Classes and other minority communities, particularly living in Jammu province.
“We condemn the ‘anti-Dalit and anti-poor’ decision of the Central Government which has ignored us in the All-Party Meeting,” he said, asking secular forces especially the Dalits, OBCs, minorities and Muslims to unite and give a “befitting reply” to BJP in the upcoming elections.
However, the Jammu Muslim Front (JMF) has welcomed the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) decision to take part in the All-Party Meeting.
“We hope the political stalwarts will use the opportunity to work for the upliftment of Jammu and Kashmir and restoration of peace and development,” JMF chairman Shuja Zaffar said.
Fourteen political leaders who have been invited to the meeting include four former Chief Ministers Dr Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mehbooba Mufti, four former Deputy Chief Ministers-Muzaffar Hussain Beig, Kavinder Gupta, Dr Nirmal Singh and Tara Chand, BJP UT chief Ravinder Raina, PCC (I) chief GA Mir, Altaf Bukhari (JKAP), Sajjad Lone (JKPC), MY Tarigami (CPM) and Prof Bhim Singh (NPP).
Besides Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Government will be represented by Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Dr Jitendra Singh.

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