In the Centre's first outreach to Jammu and Kashmir's political leadership in almost two years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday held a crucial meeting with 14 leaders, including four former chief ministers, to chalk out the future course of action in the union territory.
The PM, accompanied by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha, received the leaders from eight parties, including the National Conference, the PDP, the BJP and the Congress, at his residence.
This was the first interaction between the Central leadership and the mainstream parties since August 5, 2019, when the Centre revoked Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370 and bifurcated it into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir with an Assembly and Ladakh without one.
Meanwhile, there was no discussion on abrogation of Article 370 in the three-hour meeting as the matter is sub judice. "On Article 370 abrogation, People's Conference leader Baig says matter pending in Supreme Court, there was no point in discussing it," news agency PTI reported. "Almost 80% of parties spoke on Art 370 but the matter is sub judice in court," news agency ANI quoted senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad as saying.
For the uninitiated, the National Conference and a few other parties have challenged the August 5 decision and the delimitation exercise before the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, People's Conference chairman Muzaffar Baig after the meeting told India Today that PM Modi was reassuring and responded to all points raised in the meeting. "We were all in agreement that we must work for democracy and development of J&K. The PM Modi listened very patiently. He was reassuring and responded to all points raised in the meeting," he said.
J&K Apni Party's Altaf Bukhari said PM Modi heard their issues and assured that the election process will begin when the delimitation process finishes. "The talks were held in a good atmosphere today. The Prime Minister heard our issues of all leaders. PM said that election process will begin when delimitation process finishes," Bukhari said. "The PM asked all to participate in the delimitation process. We have been assured that this is the roadmap towards elections. PM also said that we are committed to the restoration of statehood," he added.
Ghulam Nabi Azad said they kept five demands in the meeting: Grant statehood soon, conduct Assembly elections to restore democracy, rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in J&K, all political detainees should be released and on domicile rules. "The Home Minister said the government is committed to granting statehood to Jammu and Kashmir. All leaders demanded full-fledged statehood," Azad added.
"The meeting was held in a very cordial manner. We came out quite positive that hopefully there will be some delivery for the people of Jammu and Kashmir," said People's Conference leader Sajjad Lone.