NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed to a group of leaders from Jammu and Kashmir that he wanted to remove “dil ki doori and Dilli ki doori” — distance between hearts and the distance with Delhi — National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said after a meeting to chalk out the future course of action in the union territory on Thursday.
Talking to reporters after the meeting, Abdullah said both Prime Minister Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah assured that they were committed to the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood.
The meeting was called nearly two years after the Centre abrogated special status of the erstwhile state and bifurcated it into two union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
“The takeaway from the meeting was that the prime minister said that he wanted to remove ‘dil ki doori and Dilli ki doori’ but I as well as other leaders are sure that one meeting is not enough for the same. However, a process has begun,” Abdullah, a former chief minister, said.
The central leadership wanted to hold the assembly elections immediately after the delimitation commission submits its report but senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad urged the prime minister to restore full statehood before conducting the polls, he said.
He said that his party president Farooq Abdullah said during the meeting that there was an urgent need to rebuild trust in Jammu and Kashmir.
“The trust deficit among the people of Jammu and Kashmir needs to be addressed to immediately by the Centre and for that, the process of restoration of complete statehood is necessary,” he said.
On the delimitation commission, Omar Abdullah said the central leadership was informed that the exercise in itself was defeating the very purpose with which the BJP-led government had carried out the exercise of abrogation of special status on August 5, 2019.
“On one hand the central leadership claimed that the decision in August 2019 was taken for a complete merger of Jammu and Kashmir with the Union of India and on the other the same Jammu and Kashmir is treated differently by bringing in separate delimitation commissions for Assam and us.”
“If the delimitation commission for Assam could be withheld and assembly elections held there, then why not for Jammu and Kashmir. Isn’t this defeating the very purpose of the central leadership,” he asked.
The former chief minister said that even the central leadership was of the view the government could not be run by bureaucrats and that a political government needs to take charge.
Omar Abdullah said, “Our party president has made it clear that as and when an invite for the (delimitation) commission meeting will come, we will take consider it.”
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters that he put forward various points on behalf of his party in the meeting, which included restoration of complete statehood, followed by elections.
“I have also asked for a rehabilitation process for Kashmir Pandits, release of political prisoners, and domicile rules whereby the Centre guarantees jobs for the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” Azad told reporters.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti told reporters that the meeting went off well and that she has complimented the prime minister for initiating back-channel talks with Pakistan that led to the ceasefire agreement at the Line of Control (LoC) and decrease in infiltration levels.
“I have requested the prime minister that, if need be, we could talk to Pakistan once again for further boosting the peace process,” she said.
On the abrogation of Article 370, Mehbooba said that her party would continue to fight for its restoration.
“After all the special status has not been given to us by Pakistan. It was given to us by late Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar (Vallabhbhai) Patel. We will continue to fight for restoration of special status through legal and constitutional means,” she said.
She also demanded resumption of cross-LoC trade which had been stopped by India following reports that it was used for smuggling of arms and ammunition and was being used to fund terror activities in Jammu and Kashmir.