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Centre planning series of political initiatives in JK: Officials

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The Centre is planning a series of political initiatives in Jammu and Kashmir which may include discussion with mainstream parties of the Union Territory and elections to the assembly in the early part of next year, officials said here on Friday.

The delimitation commission, which was set up immediately after passage of Jammu and Kashmir reorganisation bill by Parliament under the chairmanship of Justice (retd) Ranjana Desai, is likely to expedite its work and submit its report.

The commission was set in February 2020 and has been given an extension of one year in March.

The central leadership may even invite the National Conference headed by Farooq Abdullah, PDP chairperson Mehbooba Mufti, Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party led by Altaf Bukhari and People”s Conference”s Sajjad Lone for discussion in the coming weeks.

The possibility of Prime Minister Narendra Modi chairing the meeting is not ruled out, the officials said.

The state units of the BJP and the Congress are also likely to be part of these discussions which are seen among a slew of measures to restore democracy in the Union Territory that was formed by bifurcating Ladakh on August 5, 2019 when the Centre abrogated special status of the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir.

Barring Bukhari, other leaders have also served a spell of detention following the August 2019 decision.

The NC and six other parties including its arch rival PDP and People”s Conference had joined hands last year ahead of the District Development Commission polls and the alliance surged way ahead of BJP and its allies including JKAP by bagging 110 seats out of 280. The BJP was the single largest party with 75 seats and the NC won 67 seats within the alliance.

The political mainstream of the union territory, especially those having a strong base in the valley, has been critical of successive administrations of the union territory for neglecting the demands of the people and raising questions on the development slogan raised post August 2019.

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Govt fully committed to democratic process in J-K, removing Dilli ki Duri as well as Dil Ki Duri: PM

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in all-party meeting on Jammu and Kashmir, on Wednesday said that his government is fully committed to the “democratic process” in the region and holding the assembly elections is a priority, sources said.
During a three-and-a-half-hour long meeting with 14 leaders from Jammu and Kashmir, the Prime Minister patiently heard out suggestions and inputs from all participants.

“PM said that we are fully committed to the democratic process in J&K. He stressed that holding assembly elections just like the successful conduct of DDC (District Development Council) elections is a priority,” sources said.

This was the first meeting between the Centre with the political leaders of the region after the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019 and bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories.

PM Modi expressed happiness that all participants shared their frank and honest views.
“It was an open discussion which revolved around building a better future for Kashmir. The main focus of the meeting was to strengthen the democratic process,” sources said.

According to sources, discussions were focused on holding assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir soon after delimitation process is completed, to which most participants expressed their willingness.
The Prime Minister, sources added, emphasised on the need to strengthen democracy at the grassroots and work together with the people of Jammu and Kashmir to ensure their upliftment.

Leaders of Gupkar alliance including National Conference president Farooq Abdullah and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti also attended the crucial meeting.

PM Modi expressed happiness on the commitment to the Constitution and democracy espoused by all participants. He said that even one death in Jammu and Kashmir is painful and it is ‘our collective duty to protect our younger generation’.

Stressing on the need to provide opportunities to the youth of the Union Territory, the Prime Minister said that younger generation of the region will give back lots to the country.

The developmental work with implementation of many pro-people initiatives, carried out over the last two years in Jammu and Kashmir, was discussed in detail in the meeting held at the Prime Minister’s residence.
PM Modi expressed satisfaction with the acceleration of development in the Union Territory and said that ‘it is creating new hope and aspirations among the people’.

“When people experience corruption free governance, it inspires trust among the people and people also extend their co-operation to the administration and this is visible in Jammu and Kashmir today,” the Prime Minister said, according to sources.

The Prime Minister said that there would be political differences but everyone should work in national interest for the benefit of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. He underlined that an atmosphere of safety and security needs to be ensured for all sections of society in the region.

PM Modi said that he wants to remove ‘Dilli ki Duri as well as Dil Ki Duri’.
Among the leaders who participated in the meeting were Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad, Tara Chand and GA Mir; National Conference’s Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah; PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti, J-K Apni Party’s Altaf Bukhari; BJP’s Ravinder Raina, Nirmal Singh, and Kavinder Gupta; CPI(M)’s M Y Tarigami; National Panthers Party’s Prof Bheem Singh; and Peoples Conference’s Sajad Gani Lone.

Home Minister Amit Shah, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and Home Secretary also attended the meeting.

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PM Modi urged J-K leaders to participate in delimitation, elections after process ends: Altaf Bukhari

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the meeting of political leaders from Jammu and Kashmir that the assembly election process will begin when the delimitation process ends, Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari said on Thursday.

Bukhari told media persons that talks were held in a “good atmosphere”.

He said the Prime Minister urged the political leaders from Jammu and Kashmir to participate in the delimitation process.

The Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party leader said the Prime Minister also told the meeting that the government was committed to the restoration of statehood.

“The Prime Minister heard our issues of all leaders. He said that the election process will begin when the delimitation process finishes. The Prime Minister asked all to participate in the delimitation process. We have been assured that this is the roadmap towards elections. Prime Minister also said that we are committed to the restoration of statehood,” he said.
The meeting began at around 3 pm and was attended by 14 prominent leaders from Jammu and Kashmir.

This was the first high-level interaction between the Centre and political leadership mainly from Kashmir since August 5, 2019, when the Centre revoked the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and the state was bifurcated into two union territories.

Among the leaders who are participated in the meeting were Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad, Tara Chand and GA Mir; National Conference’s Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah; PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti, J-K Apni Party’s Altaf Bukhari; BJP’s Ravinder Raina, Nirmal Singh, and Kavinder Gupta; CPI(M)’s M Y Tarigami; National Panthers Party’s Prof Bheem Singh; and Peoples Conference’s Sajad Gani Lone.

Home Minister Amit Shah, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor Manoj Sinha and Home Secretary also attended the meeting.

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PM meets J-K political leadership to chalk out future course of action

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In the government’s first outreach to Jammu and Kashmir’s political leadership in almost two years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday held a crucial meeting with 14 leaders, including four former chief ministers, to chalk out the future course of action in the union territory.

The prime minister, accompanied by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Lieutenant Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha, received the leaders from eight parties, including the National Conference, the PDP, the BJP and the Congress, at his residence.

This is the first interaction between the Central leadership and the mainstream parties since August 5, 2019, when the Centre revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 and bifurcated it into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Minister of State in PMO Jitendra Singh, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister P K Mishra and Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla were among those who attended the meeting. The four former chief ministers of the erstwhile state who participated in the discussions were Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah of the National Conference, Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti.

Four former deputy chief ministers were in attendance too – Congress’ Tara Chand, People”s Conference leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig and BJP”s Nirmal Singh and Kavinder Gupta.

CPI-M leader Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami, Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) chief Altaf Bukhari, Sajjad Lone of the People”s Conference, J-K Congress head G A Mir, BJP”s Ravinder Raina and Panthers Party leader Bhim Singh also formed part of the delegation.

“I will keep my agenda in the meeting and then talk to you,” Farooq Abdullah said before the meeting started.

Asked about PDP chief Mehbooba”s comments that India should initiate dialogue with Pakistan, the NC leader said, “Mehbooba ji is the president of her party. She has the right to speak. I have my own. I don”t want to bring in Pakistan. I am going to talk to our own prime minister.”

“If India can talk to the Taliban in Doha (Qatar), why not Pakistan,” Mehbooba had said earlier.

With no agenda announced for the meeting, the leaders from Jammu and Kashmir said they have come with an open mind.

“We have not been given an agenda. We will be attending the meeting to know what the Centre is offering,” said Tarigami, who is also spokesperson of the six-party People”s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) that was formed in the aftermath of the August 2019 decisions. Officials said the Centre is keen on holding assembly elections in the union territory as early as possible, maybe in December this year or March 2022 after the Delimitation Commission headed by Justice (retd) Ranjana Desai completes its task of redrawing constituencies in the next few months. The Commission was granted one year”s extension in March this year.

BJP”s Jammu and Kashmir unit president Raina said Thursday’s interaction convened by the prime minister is in accordance with the wishes of heads of various political parties who have been seeking time from him for a long time.

The meeting seems to be the result of the back-channel talks held with all the parties from the union territory to chart out a roadmap.

The Union Home Minister, while tabling the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Bill 2019 in Parliament, had given an assurance that the Centre would grant full statehood to Jammu and Kashmir at an appropriate time.

Today’s dialogue comes seven months after the District Development Council (DDC) elections in Jammu and Kashmir. The PAGD had surged ahead of the BJP and its allies, including the JKAP, by bagging 110 seats out of 280 with the National Conference emerging stronger with 67 seats within the alliance. The BJP was the single largest party with 75 seats.

Jammu and Kashmir’s political mainstream, especially those with a strong base in the Valley, has been critical of successive administrations of the union territory for allegedly neglecting the demands of the people. It has raised questions on development initiatives since August 2019.

Several leaders, including the Abdullahs and Mehbooba, were detained after the August 2019 decisions.

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