Centre takes steps to engage with J&K parties

Regional leaders likely to travel to Delhi for meeting with top BJP leadership, say sources.

June 11, 2021 11:52 am | Updated 11:34 pm IST - Srinagar:

Markets open partially in Kashmir after government announced relaxation in lockdown in Srinagar, Monday, May 31, 2021.

Markets open partially in Kashmir after government announced relaxation in lockdown in Srinagar, Monday, May 31, 2021.

Twenty months after the Union government ended Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional position, serious spadework is on, for the first time, to rope in the mainstream political parties of the Union Territory (UT), especially the Kashmir-based grouping, the Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), to engage with New Delhi and meet the BJP’s top leadership in the coming weeks.

Top sources privy to the parleys on the backchannels told The Hindu  that “people mandated by the Centre are in touch with the top leaders of the regional political parties of J&K for many weeks”. It included the region’s oldest political party, the National Conference (NC), whose president Dr. Farooq Abdullah heads the Gupkar alliance. Besides, Peoples Conference’s Sajad Lone and J&K Apni Party’s Altaf Bukhari may also be taken on board. 

The situation in Kashmir has not changed favourably since the August 5, 2019 action by the Centre to abrogate all special provisions of Article 370. A bid to dislodge and discredit the traditional leaders and create a new crop of leadership in Kashmir has not yielded any desired results till date, which was evident during the District Development Council polls last year.

The sources said that if all went well, J&K leaders were likely to travel to New Delhi and hold a meeting with top BJP leadership. The talks were likely to revolve around the return of Statehood status to the Jammu and Kashmir and early Assembly elections for now.

J&K remains under the Centre’s rule since 2018, after the BJP pulled out of the alliance with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Dr. Abdullah had dropped broad hints and showed his readiness to engage after the Gupkar alliance partners met at the official residence of PDP president Mehbooba Mufti in Srinagar on June 9. “We have not closed any doors [for talks]. If invited, we may look into it,” he told reporters.

The sources said all the five parties associated with the Gupkar alliance, including the PDP, did discuss the offer of engagement from New Delhi.

Dr. Abdullah had softened his position on delimitation and was likely to engage in the process, set off to create more constituencies ahead of Assembly polls.

The NC MPs, who have abstained from the Commission’s meeting so far, are likely to be allowed to make recommendations and “will be given due consideration”, the sources said.

Ms. Mufti, whose uncle and PDP general secretary Sartaj Madani, close aide Naeem Akhtar and party’s youth wing president Waheed-ur-Rehmaan Parra remain behind the bars, has also shared her viewpoint on the subject and stressed the need “to prove the intention” ahead of any grand optics.

If the outreach by the Centre manages to get the regional parties onboard for a meeting, it is also likely to ease the pressure off from Prime Minister Narendra Modi from international and neighbouring countries on Kashmir.

Any move to allow local parties to express their politics again will be seen as a confidence building measure both in Srinagar as well as Islamabad.

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