Srinagar: The meeting between the political leadership from Jammu and Kashmir and the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on Thursday focused on holding of elections after the completion of delimitation exercise in the region.
The meeting, which began at around 3 p.m, extended for nearly three and half hours and all the 14 political leaders spoke to the top leadership in turns and put forth their demands, which included restoration of statehood, initiation of election process and release of political prisoners.
The deliberations is seen as the first outreach of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)- led Central government after the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union territories on August 5, 2019 -- ahead of which all the prominent political leaders were arrested and held under detention for months.
Two former J&K chief ministers – Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah – said that they informed the Prime Minister about their refusal to accept the August 5 move.
“We informed the PM that we don't stand with the August 5 decision. We're not ready to accept it. But we won't take law into our hands. We'll fight this in court,” Omar Abdullah said.
The National Conference (NC) leader added that he informed the Prime Minister that there's been a breach of trust between state and the Centre and it is the “duty” of the Centre to restore it.
A majority of leaders, however, were united in demanding restoration of full statehood for J&K and holding of elections in the region – currently governed by a Union territory administration, which Mehbooba said had created “difficulties” for people.
“People of J&K are in a lot of difficulties after August 5. They're angry, upset and emotionally shattered. They feel humiliated. I told the Prime Minister that people of J&K don't accept the manner in which Article 370 was abrogated unconstitutionally, illegally and immorally,” the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) president was quoted as saying.
Mehbooba added that she complimented the Central government for holding talks with Pakistan and demanded the restoration of trade with the country through the Rawlakot and Muzaffarabad routes as many livelihoods in Kashmir are associated with it.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said they put five demands in front of the Prime Minister, which included granting of statehood, conduct elections, rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in J&K, release of all political prisoners and establishment of domicile rules.
"The Home Minister said the government is committed to granting statehood to Jammu and Kashmir. All leaders have demanded the same,” Azad said after the meeting.
Former separatist–turned-mainstream politician Sajad Lone of the Jammu and Kashmir People’s Conference (JKPC) said the meeting was a positive development after a long time and that they developed an “emotional bonding”.
“The meeting was held in a very cordial manner. I think there was an emotional bonding given what has happened so far. We came out quite positive that hopefully there will be some delivery for the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” Lone said.
Soon after the meeting, Prime Minister Modi said in what appeared a commitment toward holding elections in the region after the delimitation exercise. “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,” he said in a tweet.
“Our democracy’s biggest strength is the ability to sit across a table and exchange views. I told the leaders of J&K that it is the people, specially the youth who have to provide political leadership to J&K, and ensure their aspirations are duly fulfilled,” PM Modi tweeted.