National Conference chief Omar Abdullah — who attended Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s big meeting with political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir this evening — said it was the duty of the Centre to restore the broken trust of the people.
“A trust has broken between the Centre and Kashmir. It is the Centre’s responsibility and PM should take all the measures required to restore it,” said the 51-year-old former Chief Minister, who was among the political leaders jailed for months as the Centre scrapped the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir in 2019 and divided the state into two Union Territories.
What followed was a period of curfew, jailing of political leaders, shutting down of phone and internet services. The political process had been suspended in 2018, when the BJP snapped ties with then Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti.
The former Chief Minister later told NDTV that they are also going to “use the constitutional right to challenge this decision (scrapping of special status) in the Supreme Court”.
“It is unfortunate that the Supreme Court has not found the time to start hearings in these matters… but we are not going to stop… If we have to start a campaign, however long it is… we will do it peacefully, legally and constitutionally… Won’t put the people in harm’s way,” he told NDTV.
The political leaders who met PM Modi today said they made a case for the restoration of statehood in Jammu and Kashmir.
“Decisions that weren’t in the interest of Kashmir should be taken back. It was given the status of a Union Territory, people don’t like it. They want full statehood for J&K and the J&K cadre restored… Jammu and Kashmir should be restored to full statehood,” Mr Abdullah told reporters.
“We told the Prime Minister that we don’t stand with what was done on 5th August 2019. We’re not ready to accept it. But we won’t take the law into our hands. We’ll fight this in court,” added Mr Abdullah, who later told NDTV that he did not speak at the meeting due to paucity of time.
Sources said PM Modi has assured that statehood will be restored “at an appropriate time” and urged the political leaders to get on board with delimitation — the redrawing of assembly constituencies to enable elections — for now. Elections can happen soon after delimitation, it was said, and “most participants expressed willingness for it”, said sources.
“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,” tweeted Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who was also present at the meeting.
Mr Abdullah, however, questioned why Jammu and Kashmir has been singled out for delimitation. After the 2001 census, the J&K assembly had passed a law, putting off the delimitation process till 2026.
“We said delimitation was not needed. If August 5 was to unite the state with India, then the delimitation process defeats the purpose as we are being singled out,” Mr Abdullah said.
Mr Abdullah also said the question of talks with Pakistan was also discussed at the meeting. “Going by media reports, it appears that talks with Pakistan are on at some level,” he said. “I would never say that this responsibility of creating an atmosphere rests on the Indian government alone. It is more a responsibility of Pakistan as we have said time and again that talks cannot continue amid terrorism. But we cannot also forget what someone like (former Prime Minister) Atal Bihari Vajpayee had said — that we can change our friends but not our neighbours. Pakistan will remain our neighbour and somehow, by using back channels, we need to dissipate this atmosphere of tension,” he added.