Ahead of a key meeting Tuesday of the People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) on Delhi’s move to initiate talks, the Farooq Abdullah-led National Conference, while calling it a “good change”, said there is realisation at the Centre that it cannot move forward in J&K without the mainstream political parties.
People’s Conference chairman Sajad Lone, who held discussions Monday with his colleagues, told The Indian Express: “This 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 People’s Conference underlined the need for “the political class to play a constructive role vis-à-vis ending the prevalent logjam and finding durable and democratic solutions to all the challenges facing the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
It called for “the scripting of a new social contract” with Delhi to address the “aspirations of the people” of J&K, and the need to restore the “credibility and sanctity of the institution of dialogue.”
National Conference senior leader and provincial vice-president ~Nasir Aslam Wani said, “It is a good change. They have this realisation that they can’t do without the mainstream. As much as you demonise the mainstream of J&K, you can’t do without it.”
“The mainstream of J&K has always proven, NC being the premier political party of the erstwhile state, it has that grassroots reach. Without its involvement in such dialogues and conferences, you cannot move ahead,” he said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has scheduled a meeting on June 24 with the political leadership of J&K, the majority of whom were detained following the constitutional changes effected in J&K on August 5, 2019.
The meeting 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 imposed in June 2018.
There were indications Monday that the government was optimistic about the turnout at the June 24 roundtable from among the 14 leaders who have received invitations from the Union Home Secretary.
Speaking to The Indian Express, a top official of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), who is involved in the initiative, said there was only a single-point “agenda” for the meeting: the early handing over of power to elected representatives and an end to President’s rule.
“Governance to Jammu and Kashmir must return by those who are elected by the people and it is the clamour and pressure of the citizens to have their elected representatives back that will ensure political parties participate fully,” the official said.
On the response from the leaders who have been invited to the meeting and the fact that many leaders are yet to confirm their attendance, the official said, “We are expecting 100% attendance at the meeting except maybe one politician who is presently ailing.”
What is being stressed upon is what the Centre and the national security apparatus consider a prolonged period of “near normalcy” in the Union Territories, being seen as conducive for the conduct of Assembly elections.
“There have been no major incidents of terror attacks, firing, stone-pelting or untoward activity at the LoC and it is the citizens who want an elected government back,” the PMO official said.
For this, the exercise of delimitation which has been ongoing in Jammu and Kashmir since last year would be fast-tracked.
The Prime Minister is expected to urge leaders at the June 24 conclave to cooperate with the Delimitation Commission and set the electoral process moving.
In Srinagar, NC’s Wani said whatever be the reason for this shift, it is good. “Whether it is under any pressure or not or the PM has had this realisation on his own that J&K should see peace, it is good. And we hope that the future holds peace for us, both within and outside the UT.”
He said despite the Centre taking credit “for so much over the last two years, on the ground they have achieved nothing. It is always the people’s representatives who can deliver.”
Farooq Abdullah continued consultations Monday with his party representatives to discuss the Prime Minister’s invitation for the June 24 meeting. On Sunday, Abdullah met representatives from Kashmir and on Monday, he met those from Jammu.
“Our party’s head will go to the meeting. He represents not just Kashmir but the people of Jammu and Ladakh as well,” Wani said.