The Centre has invited mainstream politicians of Jammu and Kashmir for a meeting in Delhi. The meeting will be chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This is the first outreach initiative from the Centre since the abrigation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the region into two union territories: Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD), a group of five parties in Jammu and Kashmir, held a meeting earlier this week to decide about the Centre’s move. The group confirmed participation in the meeting and its leaders have reached Delhi.
Mehbooba Mufti, the chief of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – one of the constituents of PAGD – arrived in Delhi on Wednesday afternoon and National Conference (NC) president Farooq Abdullah will fly to the national capital on Thursday morning.
Union home minister Amit Shah, National Security advisor Ajit Doval, Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and Union home secretary will also be present at the meeting which will take place at PM Modi’s residence at 3pm.
Who all are participating?
The Centre has invited 14 leaders of mainstream political parties for Thursday’s meeting. These include four former chief ministers – NC leaders Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, and senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Apart from these leaders, Congress’ Tara Chand and GA Mir; J-K Apni Party’s Altaf Bukhari; BJP’s Ravinder Raina, Nirmal Singh and Kavinder Gupta; CPI(M)’s Mohammed Yousuf Tarigami; National Panthers Party’s Prof Bheem Singh; and Peoples Conference’s Sajad Gani Lone have also been invited to the meeting.
Most of the 14 leaders have reached Delhi.
What’s on the agenda?
No official agenda has been set for the meeting and a freewheeling discussion is expected. But leaders from Kashmir have indicated that they will press for restoration of Article 370 and full statehood.
“We will put our point of view in the meeting tomorrow. The biggest thing what has been taken away from us should be given back to us,” said CPM leader Tarigami, the spokesperson for PAGD.
“We (Congress leaders) will ask for agenda for this important meeting and then put our point of view before the PM,” said J&K Congress president, Ghulam Ahmad Mir.
Discussions on delimitation and assembly elections are also expected to take place at today’s all-party meeting.
Why is this meeting important?
The all-party meeting signals the restarting of political engagement between mainstream Kashmiri parties and the Centre, which in August 2019 voided Articles 370 and 35A that bestowed special status to Jammu and Kashmir and privileges to its residents, and split the state into two Union territories.
All mainstream political leaders were detained, internet and phone connections were snapped and curfew-like restrictions were imposed in the Valley for months.
Response in Kashmir valley
The meeting, though first between the leaders from Jammu and Kashmir and the Centre since the August 2019 developments, drew lukewarm reactions in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley. Here, limited trust in mainstream parties and hostility over the revocation of Article 370, which granted Jammu and Kashmir special status, persisted among residents.
“Common Kashmiris have very little expectation from the meeting. Many are not even interested,” Abdul Gani, a retired government employee of Srinagar, told Hindustan Times.
He believed that the calling of a meeting by the PM was a ‘routine political exercise’ to break the monotony after the decisions of August 2019.
Politicians in the Valley remain bitterly opposed to J&K’s bifurcation and revocation of Article 370.
Political analyst Professor Noor Ahmad Baba said that Kashmiris doubt the intentions of the central government and mainstream Valley politicians. “The experiences of people in Kashmir prompt them to doubt the centre as well as local political leaders,” he said.