A crucial meeting to chalk out the future political course of action in Jammu and Kashmir, convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, began on Thursday with the attendance of 14 leaders, including four former chief ministers.
The meeting is the first between the Centre and mainstream Jammu and Kashmir politicians after the abrogation of Article 370 and the division of the erstwhile state into two union territories in August 2019.
As all political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir reached New Delhi to join the All-Party Meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his 7 Lok Kalyan Marg residence, the party leaders are hopeful of some announcement about J&K after the meeting.
According to the sources, the party leaders are hopeful that the Prime Minister would announce some concessions about Jammu and Kashmir. “We are not expecting something huge but some steps are likely to be announced like a road map for the restoration of the statehood,” said a senior leader.
National Conference president and former Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah, who is also Chairman of People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), has left New Delhi from Srinagar on Thursday morning while his son and party Vice President Omar Abdullah is in Delhi for the past three days. Farooq Abdullah held detailed deliberation with NC leaders from Jammu before leaving for Delhi. “The entire team from Jammu which was here along with me have reposed faith in Dr Farooq Abdullah. Because he is not only the president of the National Conference, he is the tallest leader of Jammu and Kashmir. He has assured us that he will represent us and the people of Jammu and Kashmir with his wisdom. And he alone and alone can take this dialogue forward for the welfare of people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh,” NC Jammu province president Davinder Singh Rana said after the meeting with Dr. Abdullah.
People’s Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti reached Delhi on Wednesday. All three former Chief Ministers were detained by authorities on August 5, 2019, for over a year under 107 CrPc and later under the Public Safety Act.
Former Chief Minister and Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress J&K president Ghulam Ahmad Mir and former Deputy Chief Minister and Congress veteran Tara Chand are already in New Delhi. The Congress will demand the restoration of full Statehood and State subject laws and other constitutional guarantees for J&K. Peoples Conference Sajjad Ghani Lone, Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party leader Syed Altaf Bukhari and CPM veteran MY Tarigami reached Delhi on Wednesday.
Ahead of the talks PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti called for engaging Pakistan also and said Article 370 to be restored. Stating that restoration of the statehood will not be enough, she said they are fighting within the Indian Constitution, of which 370 was a part.”
Jammu and Kashmir’s Apni Party chief Syed Altaf Bukhari, however, took strong exception to Mehbooba Mufti’s recent remarks that Pakistan should also be involved in a dialogue for a resolution to the Kashmir issue. Some of the leaders say Mehbooba’s talk about engaging Pakistan has the potential to kill the whole dialogue process. They say Mehbooba could have avoided this controversy at the time of the crucial dialogue process.
“As a representative of Jammu and Kashmir, it is our firm belief that our issues will be resolved by New Delhi, not by Islamabad, Washington, or London… It could be part of an agenda which she (Mehbooba Mufti) keeps harping on,” Bukhari said.
“The way Jammu and Kashmir special status was revoked was unfortunate. People are still in pain and anger. So Prime Minister needs to have an open heart. We also want to see the fruits of democracy. We should also have the same rights that any person of Maharashtra or Assam have,” stated Bukhari.
“Prime Minister Modi should find a way to assuage the pain caused by the abrogation of Article 370. The statehood of Jammu and Kashmir should be reinstated. The democratic institution should be restored and elections should be held. Since Prime Minister has called a meeting of all parties, I believe, he does not want to fix an agenda. Instead, he wants to know what problems people of Jammu and Kashmir is facing, and how political parties are looking at them.” Bukhari said.
“At least we are talking together after a big gap. And this initiative has come from the prime minister of India after a long time and after big political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, which impacted the lives of common people in all the regions and all the communities. This dialogue and consultations should have been there before August 5, 2019. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Since then many developments took place without talking to the stakeholders of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh into consideration. Now the prime minister has invited us without communicating any agenda, it is an opportunity to listen to each other. Let us hope that it proves to be a good beginning,’ the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration spokesman M.Y Tarigami told Outlook.
As the all-party meeting comes nearly two years after Parliament voted on the abrogation of Article 370, tight security measures have been placed in the Valley. On Wednesday evening militants shot dead a 28-year-old youth in Habba Kadal Chowk in Srinagar. This was the second attack in the city as on Tuesday evening militant shot dead a police sub-inspector.
Jammu and Kashmir police officer was killed in a militant attack on the outskirts of Srinagar on Tuesday evening. The officer, Inspector Parvaiz Ahmad Dar worked with the criminal investigation department (CID) wing of the police. He was shot near his house in Nowgam when he was returning home after offering evening prayers.
Following recent militant attacks on police personnel, Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police (DGP) Dilbag Singh has directed officers to revisit the security arrangements in the valley as militants would continue to look for soft targets. Singh chaired a crime and security meeting of all range DIGs and district SSPs including police districts of the valley at the headquarters to review the police functioning in Kashmir.
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