Modi to chair meeting on J&K today, Kashmiri leaders to press for restoration of special status

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will chair an all-party meeting on Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday afternoon. The meeting is the first one between the Centre and political parties from the erstwhile state since its special status was abrogated and was split into two Union Territories in August 2019.

As many as 14 leaders from Jammu and Kashmir, including former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti will be present at the meeting. On Tuesday, the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, a coalition of six parties, agreed to attend the meeting.

No specific agenda has been decided for the meeting, but the leaders are expected to discuss delimitation, or, the process of redrawing Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies in the Union Territory.

However, Jammu and Kashmir leaders have said they would discuss the matter of full statehood and the restoration of special status.

On Wednesday, Farooq Abdullah held consultations with his party leaders from Jammu region over the Centre’s invite for the meeting, PTI reported. The delegation that spoke to Abdullah was led by National Conference provincial president for Jammu Devender Singh Rana.

“He [Abdullah] has assured us that he will represent us and the people of Jammu and Kashmir with his wisdom and he alone can take this dialogue forward for welfare of the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” Rana said.

Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami also hinted at raising the matter of restoring special status, the Hindustan Times reported. “The biggest thing that has been taken away from us should be given back to us,” Tarigami said. The CPI(M) leader is also the spokesperson of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, and will attend the meeting.

On Wednesday, Mufti too had said that the matter of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was on the agenda for leaders of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration. “Article 370, which gave the state its special status, was unconstitutionally removed,” she said. “We will not settle for less. We want Article 370 to be restored.”

Others who are scheduled to attend the meeting include Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad, Tara Chand and GA Mir, Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari, Bharatiya Janata Party’s Ravinder Raina, Nirmal Singh and Kavinder Gupta, National Panthers Party’s Bheem Singh and Peoples Conference’s Sajad Gani Lone.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha are expected to attend the meeting, according to the Hindustan Times.

Meanwhile, Jammu and Kashmir has been put on alert for the next 48 hours. Internet services may also be stopped in the Union Territory on Thursday, India Today reported.

Delimitation of Jammu and Kashmir

In February 2020, the Centre began the process of delimitation of constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir. A Delimitation Commission was set up in March under the leadership of retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai. The chief election commissioner of India and Jammu and Kashmir election commissioner are the ex-officio members of the commission.

According to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, which was passed by Parliament in August 2019 and came into effect in October 2019, Jammu and Kashmir will have a legislative Assembly while the Union Territory of Ladakh will not.

The reorganisation Act had stipulated that the number of seats in the Jammu and Kashmir state Assembly will be raised from 107 to 114 and delimitation will provide for reserved seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

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