Updated: June 23, 2021 7:29:15 am
Leaders of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a coalition of mainstream parties in Jammu and Kashmir, announced Tuesday that they would be attending the meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi on June 24.
The PAGD leaders, who met at the residence of alliance chairman and National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, held discussions for an hour. They had earlier held consultations within their own parties on Delhi’s outreach, nearly two years after the revocation of the special status of J&K and its bifurcation into two Union Territories.
With Delhi’s invitation to the talks not spelling out the agenda, Farooq Abdullah said: “Mehboobaji, myself and Tarigami Sahab have been invited. We will all go and we will present our position to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister in Delhi. They have not fixed any agenda for this meeting.”
Mehbooba Mufti, PDP president and the last Chief Minister of the erstwhile state, told The Indian Express: “We will talk about our key agenda for which the PAGD came together, which is the restoration of the position in J&K pre-August 5, 2019. This is going to be the first and foremost concern for us. Whatever their agenda for discussion, but this is going to be our agenda.”
“We will speak on this agenda and tell them that they have made a mistake. It (revocation of special status) is illegal and unconstitutional, and it should be restored. Without this, you cannot restore peace in J&K and this entire region.”
On the delimitation exercise for J&K, Mufti questioned the urgency behind the move. “Delimitation is part of the same process used to break the state. This wasn’t re-organisation, it was disorganisation. That way it is illegal and done with a certain purpose.”
Stating that there are apprehensions in the UT about the aim of the delimitation exercise, she said: “Why are they so particular about getting this done? In Assam, they have delayed it. Delimitation here was not due until 2026, along with the rest of the country. So why are they bringing those deadlines closer? What’s the urgency here?”
She said she will not raise the issue of statehood with the Centre since both the Prime Minister and Home Minister have repeatedly said that statehood will be restored and “it is something they need to do”.
She said while her party has never been against dialogue, “we would have liked to see some confidence-building measures. Our political prisoners and other detainees should have been released. If they really wanted to reach out to the people of J&K and to us, after two years of humiliation, they should have done this.”
She expressed the hope that after the Delhi meeting, those in jails within and outside Kashmir will be released. “There are people here who have to ask for help and collect money to visit family members in jails outside (the UT). If they can’t be released, they should be brought back to Srinagar.”
On resuming talks with Pakistan, she said if India was engaging with the Taliban in Doha, “they should also talk to Pakistan”.
CPM’s MY Tarigami said the parties will go to Delhi with a “vakalatnama” on behalf of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
“We will appeal to the Prime Minister to restore the guarantees provided to us under the Constitution of India,” he said.
The PAGD, he said, is not attending the meeting in Delhi to “put our signature on the Centre’s agenda”.
“If the PM’s suggestions are pro-Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, we will agree. And if they are not, we will oppose them,” Tarigami said.
On Monday, People’s Conference chairman Sajad Lone told The Indian Express: “This (the invitation to talks) is a welcome development. Coming at the level of the Prime Minister, it speaks of the seriousness of this engagement. Given what has happened in the last two years, I am hoping that this could herald the start of a new phase of reconciliation.”
The meeting Thursday is being seen by the Centre as the first crucial step for the return of elected representatives and the holding of Assembly elections subsequently in the two Union Territories to end Central rule impshalosed in June 2018.
The government, official sources said, is ready to discuss all issues that the parties will bring to the table, but at the moment it is focused on getting the delimitation exercise completed and hold elections in J&K as soon as possible.
“Statehood is a commitment that the Home Minister made on the floor of the House. It will be granted eventually. But the road to it is going to be a bit longer than the Assembly elections. The government has made a significant political outreach with no less than the PM engaging on the poll issue. One step at a time,” a government source said.
“We are aware all demands will be made. Article 370 will be raised, but the parties perhaps already know the answer to that. The government is ready to discuss all that is possible. Some can be conceded now, some will need time,” another government source said.
The demand for full statehood, the source said, will require deeper consultation and wider assessment of the security situation in the region.
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