Assembly elections are ahead and parties are preparing wholeheartedly. Likewise, in all-party meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told a group of leaders from Jammu and Kashmir that the Assembly elections there will be held after the completion of the ongoing delimitation exercise, People’s Conference leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig said after a crucial meeting to chalk out the future course of action in the Union Territory.
During the three-and-a-half-hour-long meeting, almost all the 14 leaders from Jammu and Kashmir demanded that its statehood, which was removed in August 2019, should be restored, he said. According to official sources, the main focus of the meeting was to strengthen the democratic process and the Prime Minister said that the government was “fully committed” to it.
Narendra Modi, Prime Minister
“Our priority is to strengthen grassroots democracy in J&K. Delimitation has to happen at a quick pace so that polls can happen and J&K gets an elected Government that gives strength to J&K’s development trajectory.”
Modi stressed that holding Assembly elections, just like the successful conduct of the District Development Council polls, is a priority and that the polls can happen soon after the delimitation exercise, the sources said, adding that by and large most participants expressed willingness for it.
The Prime Minister stressed that an atmosphere of safety and security needs to be ensured for all sections of society in Jammu and Kashmir and he wanted to remove ‘Dilli ki Duri as well as ‘Dil Ki Duri’ (distance from Delhi as well as distance of heart), according to the sources.
Earlier, fourteen leaders of mainstream J-K mainstream parties arrived at the PM’s residence to attend the meeting with everyone having welcomed the resumption of talks—the first outreach by the Centre since the Abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile state into the UTs of JK and Ladakh.
The meeting had no specific agenda, with leaders free to raise what they want.
Before entering the meeting, Chairman of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration and National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah again hailed the PM’s initiative and distanced himself from PDP president Mehbooba Mufti’s remarks that the Centre should also talk to Pakistan for the resolution of the Kashmir issue.
Abdullah said Mufti has her agenda and party and he, in the NC, had his separate agenda.
“The meeting is a very welcome step, much needed for easing tensions in JK. We are going with an open mind,” he said.
The meeting is being attended by four former CMs Farooq Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti; four former JK deputy CMs Nirmal Singh, Kavinder Gupta, Tara Chand, Muzaffar Baig present along with chiefs of mainstream JK parties including state Congress president GA Mir, BJP state chief Ravinder Raina, JK Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh, Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari, People’s Conference chief Sajjad Lone.
On statehood, Home Minister Amit Shah has said it will be restored at an appropriate time.
PDP Chief, Mehbooba Mufti
“People of Jammu and Kashmir are in a lot of difficulties after August 5, 2019. They are angry, upset and emotionally shattered. They feel humiliated. I told Prime Minister that people of Jammu and Kashmir do not accept the manner in which Article 370 was abrogated unconstitutionally, illegally and immorally.” “People of Jammu and Kashmir will struggle constitutionally, democratically, peacefully. Be it months or years, we will restore Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir as it is a matter of our identity. We did not get it from Pakistan, it was given to us by our country, by Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel.”
NC leader, Omar Abdullah
“There has been a breach of trust between Jammu and Kashmir and the Centre” and it is the union government’s duty to restore it. “As it was an open discussion, we have put our views openly. We told Prime Minister that we don’t stand with what was done on August 5, 2019. We’re not ready to accept it. But we won’t take the law into our hands. We will fight this in court, and hope that we’ll get justice there.”
Amit Shah, Home Minister
“Today’s meeting on Jammu and Kashmir was conducted in a very cordial environment. Everyone expressed their commitment to democracy and the Constitution. It was stressed to strengthen the democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir.” “We are committed to ensuring all-round development of J-K. The future of Jammu and Kashmir was discussed and the delimitation exercise and peaceful elections are important milestones in restoring statehood as promised in parliament.”