Narendra Modi likely to meet J&K leaders next week

First political engagement after downgrading to UT in August 2019.

Updated - June 19, 2021 09:01 pm IST

Published - June 19, 2021 06:29 pm IST - Srinagar

Leaders of Gupkar Alliance parties after a meeting in Srinagar. File

Leaders of Gupkar Alliance parties after a meeting in Srinagar. File

In a first political engagement since the August 5, 2019 move by the Centre to end J&K’s special constitutional status, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to hold a meeting with leaders of mainstream political parties from the Union Territory, including those who were incarcerated for opposing the Centre’s move, on June 24.

Official sources said some of the leaders in J&K have already been informed of the dates and the meeting through informal channels. However, most of the regional parties await a formal invite from the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

Gupkar strategy

“There is no formal invitation yet. As and when it comes, we will sit together and discuss the future strategy,” National Conference (NC) president and Peoples Alliance for the Gupkar Agenda chief, Dr. Farooq Abdullah told The Hindu .

Dr. Abdullah, the MP from Srinager, who heads an amalgam of five political parties, recently showed willingness to engage with New Delhi. Sources said he was among the first regional leaders whom Delhi got in touch with. The octogenarian NC leader along with hundreds of mainstream leaders and workers, was arrested in 2019 in the wake of the Centre's move to abrogate J&K’s special status.

The Gupkar alliance, which is scheduled to hold a meeting in the next few days, is likely to put up a joint front and a common narrative when they meet the Prime Minister. The alliance has demanded the restoration of the pre-August 5 position of J&K.

Mehbooba reluctant

However, sources close to Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti, a strong critic of the Centre’s 2019 decision, said she is reluctant to be a part of the meeting with the Prime Minister “unless the Centre spells out its agenda” and “takes concrete initiatives”.

Ms. Mufti has already been spoken to on the phone about the meeting by officials from New Delhi, according to PDP spokesman Suhail Bukhari.

“Ms. Mufti has called a meeting of the PDP’s political affairs committee on Sunday to take a final call on the proposed meeting,” Mr. Bukhari said.

Meanwhile, Sartaj Madani, uncle of Ms. Mufti, was released after a six-month preventive detention from a Srinagar sub-jail on Saturday. Officials said Mr. Madani’s detention period under sections 107 and 151 of the CrPC was coming to an end. It was his second spell of detention since August 5, 2019 and comes amid speculation of talks initiated by the Centre.

Jammu leaders eager

Leaders from the Jammu region also expressed their willingness to join the dialogue.

“We will participate in the meeting, if invited. J&K requires initiatives as there is a deep sense of deprivation. The Centre removed special status with a lot of fanfare, but the fact is there is an all round deterioration in J&K. Statehood was snatched and the delimitation process was delayed,” National Panthers Party leader Harsh Dev Singh said.

Leader of the nascent J&K Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari, a former PDP minister who floated the party in 2020 and also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier, said, “Solutions to J&K’s problems lie in New Delhi not Islamabad, New York or London. Delhi’s invitation to J&K’s political parties is a welcome development.”

The sudden move by the Centre also comes in the wake of pressure from the international community, especially the United States, to restore democratic and electoral processes in J&K, which remains under the Centre's rule since 2018.

At the same time, this will be the second major peace move in J&K after the successful renewed ceasefire agreement in February this year with Pakistan, which has been demanding a roadmap on J&K to expand the engagement with New Delhi.

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