J&K talks National

PM backs delimitation exercise, grassroots democracy in J&K

Prime Minister Narendra Modi chairs an during a meeting with various political leaders from Jammu and Kashmir in New Delhi on June 24, 2021. Photo: Twitter/@PMOIndia via PTI  

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reiterated his government’s commitment to fostering grassroots democracy in Jammu and Kashmir during his meeting with 14 leaders of eight mainstream political parties even as he sought their cooperation in first completing the delimitation exercise for Assembly seats in the Union Territory, which would eventually lead to elections.

He said this at the first outreach meeting between the Union government and the mainstream political leaders, a meeting, which by all accounts was held in cordial atmosphere.

Also read | J&K parties find common ground on deepening democracy, early polls

Government sources said in his address, Mr. Modi said “Dilli ki doori kam honi chahiye aur Dil ki doori bhi” (the distance from Delhi — the seat of power — and the distance between hearts should both be removed) to convey the spirit in which the meeting was called.

While every party spoke on restoration of statehood, the contentious issue of special status to J&K, which was removed by the reading down of Article 370, was also raised though many parties spoke of it as a legal fight as the matter was being heard in the Supreme Court. People’s Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti did, however, stressed on the need to restore special status.

After the meeting, Mr. Modi, indicating that this was the first among many such outreach efforts, tweeted: “Today’s meeting with political leaders from Jammu and Kashmir is an important step in the ongoing efforts towards a developed and progressive Jammu and Kashmir, where all round growth is furthered.”

Also read | Congress places five demands at PM's meet on J&K

He added that “delimitation has to happen at a quick pace so that polls can happen and J&K gets an elected government that gives strength to its development trajectory.”

“The biggest strength of our democracy is the ability to sit across a table and exchange views,” he said.

Government sources said the Prime Minister thanked all the participating leaders for making it to Delhi for the meeting.

National Conference leader Omar Abdullah, in a presser after the meeting said, “We told the Prime Minister that we don’t stand with what was done on August 5, 2019. We are not ready to accept it. But we won’t take law into our hands. We’ll fight this in court. We also told the Prime Minister that there’s been a breach of trust between the State and Centre. It is the Centre’s duty to restore it.”

Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “Almost 80% of parties spoke on Article 370 but the matter is sub judice.” Both Mr. Azad and Mr. Abdullah stressed on the restoration of statehood and reversal of many executive and legal changes related to land rights protection and restoration of a Jammu and Kashmir cadre in bureaucracy.

Ms. Mufti focused on restoration of Articles 370 and talks with Pakistan. “The people of Jammu and Kashmir are in a lot of difficulties after August 5, 2019. They are angry, upset and emotionally shattered... I told the Prime Minister that the people of J&K don’t accept the manner in which Article 370 was abrogated unconstitutionally, illegally and immorally,” she said.

She added that her party would “struggle constitutionally, democratically and peacefully” for the restoration of Article 370.

BJP leader Kavinder Gupta said any thought of restoring Article 370 should not even be considered. “Elections will be held after the delimitation process, and an Assembly constituted once again... Article 370 has been abrogated. It should not even be thought that it will ever come back,” he said.

Polls first: Shah

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who was present at the meeting, said the “delimitation exercise and peaceful elections are important milestones in restoring statehood as promised in Parliament”, making it clear that Assembly polls had to be a percussor to any talk of restoring statehood. Some political parties, however, did stress that statehood should be restored before polls can be held.

Minister of State for the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), Jitendra Singh, in an official statement after the meeting, said the next step in strengthening democracy in J&K would be swiftly completing the delimitation process so that Assembly polls could be held, and that Prime Minister Modi stressed the need for “constructive engagement” of all political parties with the delimitation process.

Among those who attended the meeting were four former Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir — Farooq and Omar Abdullah of the National Conference, Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress, and Mehbooba Mufti of the PDP. People’s Conference leaders Muzzaffar Baig and Sajjad Lone also attended as did Kavinder Gupta and Ravinder Raina of the BJP and Bheem Singh of the Panthers Party.

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Printable version | Aug 2, 2021 3:07:43 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/government-committed-to-the-democratic-process-for-completion-of-delimitation-exercise-pm-tells-jk-leaders/article34953504.ece

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