In the first all-party meeting involving leaders from Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday that the Centre is fully committed to the democratic process in J&K, and holding Assembly elections in the region just like the successful conduct of the District Development Council (DDC) polls is a priority.
Delimitation, roadmap for Assembly polls, restoration of statehood and bringing back Kashmiri Pandits were the key issues discussed in the crucial all-party meeting on Jammu and Kashmir that was chaired by Prime Minister Modi and involved leaders from different political parties in J&K.
The meeting lasted for more than three-and-a-half hours with nobody raising cross-border issues, sources said.
In the first such meeting held nearly two years after the erstwhile state of J&K lost its special status and was bifurcated into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh — the Prime Minister heard all the suggestions and inputs put forward by the participants and expressed happiness over everyone sharing their frank and honest views.
It was an open discussion which revolved around building a better future for Kashmir with the main focus on strengthening the democratic process in J&K.
Restoration of statehood in Jammu and Kashmir, Assembly elections, domicile rules, bringing back Kashmir Pandits and release of political prisoners were among the five key demands raised by the Congress, senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said after the marathon meeting.
The President of Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party, Altaf Bukhari, said that each speaker was heard patiently by the Prime Minister and the major discussions were related to the delimitation process and elections in the erstwhile state.
It was proposed that the elections could take place soon after the delimitation process, to which most of participants agreed.
Delimitation is a prerequisite for conducting Assembly polls — something which the authorities and the political class are looking forward to as they seek to kick the political process into a higher gear, an objective which can speed up the development process in J&K.
The Prime Minister emphasised the need to strengthen democracy at the grassroots level and work together with the people of Jammu and Kashmir to ensure their upliftment.
He expressed happiness on the commitment to the Constitution and democracy espoused by all the participants and said that even one death in J&K is painful and “it is our collective duty to protect our younger generation”.
Modi further stressed that “we need to give opportunities to the youth in Jammu and Kashmir and they will give back lots to our country”.
The developments achieved by J&K were discussed in detail during the meeting, including the many pro-people initiatives.
The Prime Minister expressed satisfaction with the acceleration of development in J&K and said that it is creating new hope and aspirations among the people.
He further said that when people experience corruption-free governance, it inspires trust among them to extend their cooperation to the administration, something which is visible in Jammu and Kashmir today.
Modi said that there would be political differences, but everyone should work for the national interest to benefit the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
He stressed that an atmosphere of safety and security needs to be ensured for all sections of society in Jammu and Kashmir, adding that he wants to remove the ‘Dilli ki Duri’ as well as ‘Dil Ki Duri’.
“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,” Union Home Minister Amit Shah tweeted after the meeting.
Four former J&K Chief Ministers were among the 14 leaders who took part in the meeting. Three of them — National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti — were put under detention for six months to one year from August 5, 2019, when the changes were enforced.
Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad was the other former J&K CM who took part in the all-party meeting chaired by the Prime Minister