Srinagar: The regional political parties in Jammu and Kashmir will be attending the all parties meeting scheduled in New Delhi on June 24, senior politician Farooq Abdullah confirmed on Tuesday as head of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD).
PAGD, a united front created by the half a dozen regional parties to advocate the restoration of J&K’s ‘special status’, held a meeting on Tuesday at Gupkar road to take a call on the Delhi meeting which will be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. The Central government has invited 14 leaders from all political parties, such as National Conference (NC), People’s Democratic Party (PDP), MY Tarigami of CPI (M) and former chief ministers of the erstwhile state.
“Mehbooba, Tarigami and I will attend the all-party meeting called by the Prime Minister. We hope to keep our agenda before the Prime Minister and Home Minister,” PAGD head Abdullah told reporters after the meeting.
Following the PAGD meet, Muzaffar Shah of the Awami National Conference (ANC), told reporters that “there should be no compromise on Article 370 and 35A”. As PAGD members are set to meet the top Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership, the leaders pointed out that the government should release all political prisoners, including Shabir Ahmad Shah, who is a senior Hurriyat leader.
Former J&K chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, however, said the release of political prisoners and restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir “will not end the discussion” over Kashmir.
“If the situation in Kashmir has to be restored and for the sake of peace in the entire region, no compromises need to be made. The government is engaged in dialogue with Taliban (Afghan) so they should also talk to all people in Jammu and Kashmir and also engage with Pakistan for resolution,” the PDP president said.
The meeting comes as a “respite” after two years of continuous battering from the BJP-led Central government against the regional leadership, most of whom were detained arbitrarily for months as the decision to abrogate Article 370 was taken and Jammu and Kashmir was divided into two Union territories on August 5, 2019.
The pro-election leadership in the region, which sees Delhi’s ‘change of heart’ as their “victory”, reiterated their commitment to various objectives, which include restoration of August-4 status of the Union territory.
“We will reiterate the agenda of the PAGD. We will appeal to the PM to reconsider the guarantees given to us under the Constitution,” CPI(M) leader MY Tarigami said.
Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Conference (JKPC), a former PAGD constituent, “hoped” that this “engagement would evolve into something much bigger and facilitate return to democracy and empowerment of the people of J&K.”
“...Post August 5, there is a dire need for scripting a new social contract between Delhi and the people of J&K to address the aspirations of the people of J&K.", JKPC spokesperson Adnan Ashraf Mir said.
Iymon Majid, who teaches political science at the University of Kashmir, however, believes that even as the BJP-led government has invited the Kashmir parties for dialogue, the Central government will be speaking from a “position of power”.
“There is nothing that the Gupkar alliance has to offer as of now and it seems that Modi government will be dictating terms during the meeting,” Majid told NewsClick.
He added that the regional parties, who have been disempowered by New Delhi, have an opportunity to “restore themselves in the political arena” but, for that the PAGD has to play the hardball.
In Jammu, a dalit leader from Congress party, Tara Chand – the Deputy Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir from 2009 to 2014 – is one of the invitees to the all- party meeting.
Chand told NewsClick that the Congress party will be meeting on Wednesday in the national capital following which the agenda will be set.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, who will also be attending the meeting, however, claimed that they will focus on demanding full statehood for J&K.
"Statehood will be the top demand. That will be top of the agenda. And it was promised on the floor of the House as well. Full-fledged statehood...not L-G's statehood," Azad was quoted as saying.
Even as restoration of statehood remains a common demand for all the parties, National Panthers Party (NPP) leader Bhim Singh said he would demand restoration of Article 370.
"It has been unanimously decided that we should accept the invitation and attend the meeting to seek restoration of full statehood along with other rights, as guaranteed by the Constitution," Singh was quoted as saying.
Ellora Puri, who teaches political science at University of Jammu, told NewsClick that J&K’s political leaders seem to have been caught “unawares” with this invitation.
“It is a very typical Modi government phenomenon where they take a decision without putting in a lot of effort. They don't have any form of agenda as of now. It seems there is some form of pressure that is emerging," Puri says.
"They (Centre) had already started the political activity with DDC (District Development Council) elections. Now they have to go beyond that. This is also an attempt to give some kind of legitimacy to delimitation by involving regional parties. We can look at the political process being restarted and statehood being restored," she added.