No takers for Narendra Modi’s election plan in Occupied Kashmir

Indian PM says Jammu & Kashmir to become state again 'at right time': Urges parties to get on board with delimitation to enable elections: Unhappy Kashmiri leaders say they will fight delimitation plan in court as it aims to increase BJP’s Jammu seats: No APHC leader attended meeting

By: News Desk      Published: 09:36 AM, 25 Jun, 2021
No takers for Narendra Modi’s election plan in Occupied Kashmir
Narendra Modi meeting Kashmiri leaders.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plan to carry out delimitation for holding elections in Occupied Kashmir fell apart as he hosted a meeting of Kashmiri leaders at his residence in New Delhi.

Narendra Modi, in a 3-hour meeting with political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, spoke about removing "Dilli ki Doori as well as Dil Ki Doori" and assured his commitment to restoring full statehood at the right time, reported NDTV on Friday. 

Fourteen mainstream Occupied Jammu and Kashmir leaders from eight political parties, including four chief ministers, attended the three-hour meeting aimed at getting the political process back on course in the region after it lost its special status under Article 370 of the Constitution in 2019 and was downgraded from a state to two Union Territories - Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. However, no APHC leader attended the meeting.

NDTV quoting sources reported that PM Modi maintained that statehood would be restored "at an appropriate time" but urged the parties to get on board with delimitation or the redrawing of assembly constituencies to enable elections. Elections can happen soon after delimitation, it was said, and "most participants expressed willingness for it", said the sources.

"The main focus of the meeting was to strengthen the democratic process. Modi said that we are fully committed to the democratic process in J&K. He stressed that holding assembly elections just like the successful District Development Council elections is a priority," Indian government sources said.

Former Chief Ministers Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah of the National Conference met with PM Modi last on August 1, 2019. They were stunned when three days later on August 4, they were detained and hours later, the abrogation of Article 370 was announced in parliament.

Indian Home Minister Amit Shah, while announcing the colossal move in parliament, had said that full statehood would be "restored at an appropriate time".

After Thursday's meeting, Mr Shah tweeted: "The future of Jammu and Kashmir was discussed and the delimitation exercise and peaceful elections are important milestones in restoring statehood as promised in parliament."

Omar Abdullah, however, told reporters that "almost all leaders" were unhappy with delimitation only in Jammu and Kashmir. "In other states, delimitation will be taken up in 2026, why has been Jammu and Kashmir been singled out? We told the PM delimitation is not needed," said the former Chief Minister, adding that "trust has broken between the Centre and Kashmir".

The push appears to be aimed at increasing the number of seats in the Hindu-majority Jammu region to give Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party an edge in local polls.

"We told the prime minister that we don't stand with what was done on 5th August 2019," Abdullah told NDTV, referring to the revocation and echoing other local parties' call for the return of Kashmir's autonomy.

"We're not ready to accept it. But we won't take the law into our hands. We'll fight this in court," he added.

The seven-party Gupkar alliance led by Farooq Abdullah and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, accorded front-row status with Modi in photos of the meet, pressed for restoration of full statehood and special status. "We will struggle for 370, be it months or years. We didn't get this (special status) from Pakistan, but from India, Nehru. There can be no compromise on this," Ms Mufti said after the meeting.

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 Centre's first major outreach since August 2019 towards political leaders who have been severely critical of the Article 370 decision. Many of the leaders attending the meeting had been detained as part of security measures to prevent any protests over the sweeping changes.

At the meeting, it was also decided that the Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha would set up a committee to review cases of political prisoners, be it those released - like the Abdullahs and Ms Mufti - and those still in detention.

In a tweet, Modi later said "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."

"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, especially the youth who have to provide political leadership to J&K, and ensure their aspirations are duly fulfilled," he wrote.

The statement came at the end of a three-and-a-half-hour-long meeting that the Prime Minister held with 14 political leaders from the region at his residence in Delhi.

The four former chief ministers of the erstwhile state who participated in the discussions were Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah of the National Conference, Congress's Ghulam Nabi Azad and Peoples' Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti.

Four former Deputy Chief Ministers were in attendance as well - Congress's Tara Chand, People's Conference leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig and BJP's Nirmal Singh and Kavinder Gupta.

CPI-M leader Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami, Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) chief Altaf Bukhari, Sajjad Lone of the People's Conference, J-K Congress head G A Mir, BJP's Ravinder Raina and Panthers Party leader Bhim Singh also formed part of the delegation.