Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reportedly assured that he is committed to restoring statehood to Jammu and Kashmir — according to politicians of the state who attended the three-hour meeting with him today. Fourteen mainstream Jammu and Kashmir politicians from eight political parties, including four former chief ministers, attended the meeting aimed at setting on course the political process in the region, which has been under the president’s rule since 2018 after the BJP withdrew support from then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti’s government.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Union Minister from the region Jitendra Singh were present at the meeting.
Prime Minister Modi, sources said, urged the parties to get on board with delimitation or redrawing of assembly constituencies to enable elections for the first time since Jammu and Kashmir lost its special status under Article 370 in 2019 and was bifurcated into two union territories.
Former Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah of the National Conference had met Prime Minister Modi last on 1 August 2019. The union government then mobilised troops in the region for three continuous days after which, on 4 August, the Abdullahs and several other politicians were detained and, hours later, the parliament virtually abrogated Article 370.
The Gupkar Alliance, a group of seven parties with separatist tendencies led by Mehbooba Mufti and Farooq Abdullah, had said they would press for the restoration of full statehood and special status at the meeting. The INC echoed the demand.
“The main focus of the meeting was to strengthen the democratic process. Prime Minister said that we are fully committed to the democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir. He stressed that the holding assembly elections just like the successful conduct of District Development Council elections is a priority,” government sources said.
“Prime Minister said that he wants to remove Dilli ki Duri as well as Dil Ki Duri,” said the sources.
The Prime Minister, said sources, “patiently heard suggestions and inputs from all participants” and expressed happiness that all participants shared their frank and honest views. “It was an open discussion which revolved around building a better future for Kashmir,” they said.
This was the union government’s first major outreach since August 2019 towards politicians who have been severely critical of the Article 370 decision. Many of the politicians attending the meeting had been detained as part of security measures to prevent any protests over the sweeping changes.
There was talk of assembly elections alongside the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, but the Election Commission flagged concerns about security expressed by the Jammu and Kashmir administration.
In December, local body elections were held in Jammu and Kashmir, in which Gupkar Alliance won more than 100 seats and the BJP emerged as the single largest party with 74 seats.