In the first since the scrapping of Article 370 giving a special status of Jammu and Kashmir and its bifurcation into two Union Territories- Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, in 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a little over three-hour meeting with 14 top Jammu and Kashmir political leaders at his residence on Thursday. The meeting which the leaders of the Gupkar alliance termed as “cordial” and “positive”, was held to chalk out the future course of action in the union territory.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 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 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the National Conference (NC), as well as those from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress, among others.
According to government sources, the main focus of the meeting was to strengthen the democratic process. PM Modi said that the government is fully committed to the democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir. He stressed that holding assembly elections just like the successful conduct of District Development Council elections is a priority.
“Today’s meeting with political leaders from Jammu and Kashmir is an important step in the ongoing efforts towards a developed and progressive J&K, where all-round growth is furthered”, Tweeted PM Modi after the meeting.
Modi reportedly asked all the leaders to actively participate in the delimitation process. He assured that this is the roadmap towards elections. PM also said that the central government is committed to the restoration of statehood, a demand which was unanimously raised by all the leader present in the meeting.
“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”, wrote PM Modi in a Tweet.
PM Modi is also reported to have said that there would be political differences but everyone should work in the national interest to benefit the people of the region, furthering that even one death in the valley pains him. He said that it was their collective duty to protect the younger generation.
PM reportedly said in the meeting that he wants to remove ‘Dilli ki Duri’ as well as ‘Dil Ki Duri’, stressing the need to strengthen democracy at the grassroots and work together with the people of Jammu and Kashmir to ensure their upliftment.
PM expressed happiness on the commitment to Constitution and Democracy espoused by all participants as well as satisfaction with the acceleration of development in region. He said that the speed at which development work is being carried out in the valley, it is creating new hope and aspirations among the people.
‘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 after meeting the PM.
Meanwhile, talking to reporters after the meeting, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said that the Home Minister said the government is committed to granting statehood to Jammu and Kashmir. “It was a good meeting, a good initiative. The Prime Minister heard all leaders. In response to them, he said, “let us move ahead,” said Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Congress on PM Modi-J&K leaders meeting.
Azad added that the Congress party made 5 main demands in the meeting, i.e., granting of statehood, conducting Assembly elections to restore democracy, rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in Jammu and Kashmir, immediate release of all political detainees and protection of land rights of the people of the region.
While the leaders from Jammu and Kashmir are demanding restoration of Article 370, it is believed that the matter was not discussed in the meeting.
PM Modi tweeted after the meeting: “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, specially the youth who have to provide political leadership to J&K, and ensure their aspirations are duly fulfilled”.
Following the meeting, home minister Amit Shah also Tweeted: “Today’s meeting on Jammu and Kashmir was conducted in a very cordial environment. Everyone expressed their commitment to democracy and the constitution. It was stressed to strengthen the democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir.”
“We are committed to ensure all round development of J&K. 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”, he wrote in his subsequent Tweet.
Union minister Dr Jitendra Singh also issued a statement regarding the meeting, saying that the PM listened to everyone very seriously, and all the leaders placed their views in the meeting. The PM said that the process of elections to panchayats and other local bodies in the UT have already being concluded, and the next step in the process, the assembly elections, must be done. But for that, the delimitation process must be completed as soon as possible, the PM emphasised.