Congress demands statehood, polls, rehab of Pandits

The Indian National Congress has demanded restoration of full statehood for Jammu and Kashmir and holding of assembly elections at the earliest. At the meeting on Jammu and Kashmir called by PM Modi in New Delhi on Thursday, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, Tara Chand and Gulam Ahmad Mir placed before the Centre a set of five demands.

Azad was the first speaker at the meeting. Before putting the five demands, Azad raised his concern over the manner J&K’s statehood was removed without consulting the political leadership of the state. “Both the PM and the home minister had assured us on the floor of the House that after a certain time statehood would be restored. Currently, there is peace and ceasefire in Kashmir. This is the most appropriate time to grant statehood,” Azad told media persons after the meeting. He emphasised that his party was demanding full statehood.

After the successful panchayat and zila parishad elections, the government should move quickly to hold assembly elections to restore democracy in the state he said. He raised the domicile rule on land ownership and job rights. He argued that land rights were given to the people of Kashmir since the rule of maharaja and later job rights were also given. “Whenever the government brings a bill in Parliament, it should guarantee land and employment rights to the local people of the state. We are not asking for job guarantees at the IAS, IPS level. But at the lower level it should be there,” he said. Congress also raised the issue of rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits. The party said that Pandits should be encouraged to come back to the state and the party would extend full cooperation for their rehabilitation.

“We are not saying release terrorists. Political leaders and social workers arrested at that time should be released,” Azad said. On Article 370, Azad said that most leaders left the Supreme Court to decide on the issue. “Since the matter is in the Supreme Court, most leaders were of the opinion that we should leave it for it to decide on this,” Azad told ET. “Of course, other parties too raised the issues. But everyone had similar demands raised by us.” Source

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