By M. Shashi
New Delhi: For the first time since the abrogation of Article 370, when Jammu & Kashmir’s special status was abrogated on August 5, 2019, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with 14 leaders from 8 parties from J&K for a dialogue, which took place in a conducive atmosphere in New Delhi.
Focus of the all-party meeting was to strengthen and ensure the democratic process in J&K, for which the Central Government assured its full commitment. PM Modi stressed that holding assembly elections in J&K is part of democracy and a constitutional right and, therefore, most important.
The burning issue on the heart of all representatives from J&K was the demand for restoration of Article 370 and full statehood of J&K. The Union government however is not even interested discussing a return to article 370 status.
Mehbooba Mufti, PDP president and former Chief Minister, said the people don’t want any compromises on Article 370 and will move heaven and earth for restoration of the special status.
“People of J&K are in a lot of difficulties after August 5, 2019. They’re angry, upset and emotionally shattered. They feel humiliated,” she told reporters after the all-party meeting.
The restoration of Article 370 is a matter of identity for people in J&K, and they will fight for the special status peacefully and constitutionally, Mufti said, adding that the people of J&K can wait patiently for it to happen, as the ruling party BJP waited 70 years for the Article 370 to be removed.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who was present at the meeting, said that restoration of full statehood would be discussed at an appropriate time after the Assembly elections. He said holding elections and the delimitation exercise is important in order to restore statehood to J&K.
Last year, a Delimitation Commission was put in place to decide the redrawing of Lok Sabha constituencies in J&K. It got delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In all other states in India, a Delimitation Commission will be set up only after 2026.
Former Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdullah questioned the timing for the delimitation in J&K. “In other states, delimitation will be taken up in 2026, why has been Jammu and Kashmir been singled out? We told the PM delimitation is not needed.”
J&K’s leader in the meeting also demanded the immediate release of all political detainees and an end of harassment of people and journalists who are outspoken and criticize the Government.
In the meeting yesterday, J&K Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha was requested to set up a committee to review all cases of detained and released political prisoners, like Ms Mufti and the Abdullahs.