Updated: March 15, 2020 7:15:41 am
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured that there will be “no demographic change” in Kashmir and that elections in the state would only be held after delimitation of constituencies, a political outfit floated in the Valley days ago said on Saturday, after a meeting with him.
One of the founders of the Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party, Ghulam Hassan Mir, said, “The Prime Minister was categorical that people should not think about demographic change. He called it propaganda. We sought statehood and domicile rights for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. It was a wonderful meeting.”
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The outfit, including political leaders from a wide spectrum but all considered traditionally close to New Delhi, was launched on March 8. At the launch in Srinagar, the Apni Party said it was willing to move beyond Article 370 and engage with New Delhi.
A statement by the PMO said, “Prime Minister engaged with the delegation on various issues like concerns on demographic changes, delimitation exercise and grant of state domicile. Referring to his statement in Parliament, Prime Minister underlined that the government will work with all sections of the population to realize the hopes of statehood for Jammu and Kashmir at an early opportunity.”
It said Bukhari had hailed abrogation of Article 370 and 35A as a watershed moment in the history of Kashmir and that the PM said, “democracy in the region could be strengthened through a fast-moving process of political integration”.
Modi was accompanied by Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy. MoS, PMO, Jitendra Singh, who belongs to Jammu, was conspicuous by his absence. Sources said some visiting leaders had expressed “reservation about the presence of Singh” at the meeting.
A senior Apni Party leader who was there at the meeting said when they asked the PM about the return of statehood to J&K, he asked them to wait for delimitation of seats. “He told us there would be delimitation first, then elections and only after that would statehood be returned.”
About fears of a demographic change, “Modi was categorical that nobody should think like that. He said nobody thinks like that and it will never happen”, the Apni Party leader said. “He also told us that before becoming PM, he had lived in Kashmir for a sufficient time and understood Kashmir. He said unless Kashmiris were involved, nothing would move forward.”
Modi also reassured them on domicile rights for the people of J&K. “Modiji said they are working on that. He said they would come up with something soon,” another leader present at the meeting said.
With most of the discussion revolving around Kashmir, a Jammu leader complained that the province was being ignored. “To this, the Prime Minister said, ‘What are you saying? We have to bring Jammu and Kashmir together’,” said the leader.
Sources said that while it was mostly a one-on-one between Modi and Bukhari, the PM responded to interventions of other leaders, including Javed Beigh and Vikram Malhotra.
The PMO statement said, “Prime Minister assured the delegation that the government is committed to economic development of the region through extensive focus on infrastructure development and creating new investment opportunities in sectors like tourism. He assured full support by the government to resolve all the issues being faced by Jammu & Kashmir.”
Mainstream politics in the Valley has been in a state of paralysis since August 5, when the Centre scrapped the special status of J&K, split it into two Union territories, and imprisoned the top leadership. With the government keen to re-start the political process in its efforts towards normalcy, the Apni Party is seen to have its support.
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