The normalization process in the Jammu and Kashmir region in the North of India was officially initiated by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday 24 June when he met a group of leaders from Jammu and Kashmir, on a special invitation extended to them by his own office. What is Modi’s Jammu Kashmir plan? is keeping pundits guessing.
Prime Minister Modi told them that the Assembly elections there will be held after the completion of the ongoing delimitation exercise.
During the three-and-a-half-hour-long meeting, pleasantries were exchanged and the PM went and spoke to each one of his guests after the conclusion of the meeting. Almost all state leaders demanded restoration of statehood.
Prime Minister Modi stressed the need for an atmosphere of safety and security for all sections of society in Jammu and Kashmir. The tag line of the meeting was PM Modi’s wish to remove ‘Dilli ki Duri as well as ‘Dil Ki Duri’ (distance from Delhi as well as distance of heart).
Distancing himself from PDP president Mehbooba Mufti’s remarks that the Centre should also talk to Pakistan for the resolution of the Kashmir issue, National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah hailed the PM’s initiative saying “I don’t want to talk about Pakistan. I will talk to my own Prime Minister… The meeting is a very welcome step, much needed for easing tensions in JK. We are going with an open mind.”
The meeting was attended by:
- Four former CMs Farooq Abdullah, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti;
- Four former deputy CMs Nirmal Singh, Kavinder Gupta, Tara Chand, Muzaffar Baig
- J&K Congress state chief GA Mir,
- BJP state chief Ravinder Raina,
- JK Panthers Party chief Bhim Singh,
- Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari, and
- People’s Conference chief Sajjad Lone.
The question of restoration of Articles 370 and 35A got a mention only to be swept aside being sub judice, languishing before the Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court of India. The India apex court has had the time to distribute oxygen cylinders but have not been able to manage time to settle this nagging but important issue.
One must recall – on the issue of farmers protesting on January 26, when the apex court was asked to intervene, it refused and said Delhi Police had all the power to take a decision whether to permit farmers’ tractor rally into the national capital.
All JK leaders – of all hues and colours want statehood restored and the Indian, Home Minister Amit Shah reiterated that the statehood of JK will be restored at an appropriate time.
The takeaway of the meeting is the word from the Prime Minister that there is political intent in Delhi to restore democratic rule in the state. It will start with the process of delimitation or what we in Australia call redistribution of electoral boundaries. This will give Hindus in the Jammu region their due representation but presents a danger for the traditional parties like the National Conference and the PDP.
Delhi wants to complete that process before the elections are held next year. The local political honchos – dislike the idea and fear that will change the power play in the state as at least seven more seats will be added to the Jammu region.
After the meeting, PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti repeated her party’s position on the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A and vowed to fight for it “months and years” until it is restored.
Did she underestimate PM Modi’s Jammu Kashmir plan? Only time will tell.
This big move by Modi was engineered to silence his critics of being a “dictatorial style leader” – assuaging the feelings of the local leaders, assuring them of the due process in the state while addressing them on their opposition to delimitation process in the state. After the meeting, these leaders know – the process will complete itself whether they join or not because its completion is the precursor to state elections.
The main player for Modi in his Jammu Kashmir plan – the whole J&K game – is the Congress veteran Ghulam Nabi Azad. His role in the entire Modi-Shah J&K saga will be interesting to watch.