In the first meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir in the two years since the abrogation of Article 370, discussions focussed on steps towards restoring the democratic process and holding Assembly elections in the State.
While leaders of 14 parties from the State, except the BJP, expressed displeasure at the way Article 370 was abrogated, they described the meeting as a “positive step” with the PM underlining his resolve to bridge “dil aur Dilli ki doori”.
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said his party has already decided to participate in the delimitation exercise in Jammu-Kashmir.
From the pre-August 5 position wherein Article 370 gave special status to the erstwhile State, the discourse had moved to restoring statehood to Jammu and Kashmir with the PM assuring them that it will be considered as and when the delimitation process gets completed.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, senior Congress leader and former Chief Minister of the State Ghulam Nabi Azad said they demanded statehood should be restored at the earliest. He said the PM and Union Home Minister Amit Shah had promised statehood in Parliament. “Now since the local body polls were held recently and the borders are peaceful, this is the time to grant full Statehood for Jammu and Kashmir. The Centre should take steps for holding Assembly elections,” Azad said.
Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh described the meeting as “positive” and that the Centre is hopeful that the delimitation process will take place without any hurdles. He said the people will accept the steps taken by the Centre to ensure peace and welfare in the State.
‘Legal battle to continue’
Former Chief Minister and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said the legal fight against abrogation of Article 370 will continue in court. “We are hopeful that we will get a favourable result,” he said. He added that there is a mistrust in the State against the Centre and it is the responsibility of the Centre to address this. “Discussions were held in a positive manner. We should get full statehood with a separate J&K cadre. Almost all the speakers were unhappy to single out J&K with delimitation. You have set us apart from rest of the country,” he said. “Centre should give a guarantee for our land and our jobs. Provisions for employment should be retained,” Azad added.
PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti said the people do not accept the “illegal, unconstitutional and immoral” decision to abrogate Article 370. “We will protest peacefully against the decision to get our rights restored. We appreciated the Centre’s decision to start dialogue with Pakistan. Trade with Pakistan should be started again to help people in the State. All political prisoners should be released immediately,” she added.
Kashmiri Pandits, in large numbers, still live outside the State and it is the responsibility of the leaders to bring them back, Azad said.
After the three and a half hour meeting, BJP state president Ravinder Raina said the PM urged them to work together in national interest. “He said he is with the people of J&K and will stand with them. J&K is like a home to him as he had worked in the State as an organiser,” Raina said.