New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday committed to restore the statehood to Jammu and Kashmir, but without giving any deadline. The PM addressed the first-ever all-party meeting with 14 leaders of eight political parties of the Union Territory, including four chief ministers, nearly after two years of the abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019.
The meeting lasted over three hours at the PM's official residence. It was at the initiative of the Prime Minister, without any agenda, in an effort to restore activities of the democracy that were taken away in 2019 by arresting all Opposition leaders. He was assisted in the meeting by Home Minister Amit Shah, J&K Governor Manoj Sinha, National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval, Minister of State in PMO Dr Jitendra Singh, who hails from Jammu, PK Mishra, principal secretary to the PM and Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla.
The PM said the meeting was convened to remove the distance between Delhi and Srinagar. He wants to remove "Dilli ki doori" and also "Dil ki doori." However, no timelines emerged on when the Assembly elections will be held or when the statehood will be restored. All parties urged to first finish the ongoing delimitation process of the Election Commission to redraw the constituencies. On restoration of Article 370 and many other issues, the PM wriggled out, saying the cases were subjudice in the Supreme Court.
Union Minister Amit Shah said delimitation exercise and peaceful elections are important milestones in restoring the same. “We are committed to ensure all round development of J&K… the delimitation exercise and peaceful elections are important milestones in restoring statehood as promised in parliament”, Shah tweeted.
Both the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders laid stress on the government resuming dialogue with Pakistan and resumption of the train and bus services between the two countries. They said the PM made no commitment on these demands, pointing out that the onus rests on Pakistan to create a "conducive atmosphere" by stopping terrorism in J&K.
Veteran Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, a former CM who held a meeting of the leaders at his residence before the meeting raised five demands on behalf of the Congress.
The uppermost in his demands, which was also backed by other leaders, is a constitutional guarantee to state domiciles to protect their land and employment rights. Other Congress demands were: 1. Restoration of Statehood, 2. Release of all political prisoners, 3. Conduct the Assembly elections at the earliest and rehabilitation of the Kashmiri Pandits.
Other former CMs in the meeting included Dr Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah of the National Conference and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti. Those joining the meeting included four former deputy chief ministers -- Tara Chand of Congress, People's Conference leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig and the BJP's Nirmal Singh and Kavinder Gupta.
Others in the meeting included CPI-M leader Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami, J&K Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari, Panthers Party chief Bhimsingh, Sajid Lone of the People's Congress, Congress leader G A Mir and BJP's Ravinder Raina.