In the first significant political outreach since the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a crucial meeting on June 24, 2021. Fourteen political leaders, including four former Chief Ministers of Jammu and Kashmir attended the meeting.
PM Modi Discusses “Dil Ki Doori” and “Dilli Ki Doori”
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, and Union Minister of State for Development of North Eastern Region and MP from Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur Dr. Jitendra Singh. PK Mishra, principal secretary to the prime minister, and Ajay Bhalla, Union Home Secretary, were also present in the meeting.
Addressing the meeting, PM Modi expressed his gratitude towards the commitment of the participants to the Constitution of India and it’s democratic values.
During the meeting, PM Modi emphasized on two main issues; working together to take democracy to the grassroots of Jammu and Kashmir and cooperative measures for the development of Jammu and Kashmir.
While acknowledging political differences, the PM focused on working together for the interests of the citizens. He expressed his concerns towards the security needs of the region and said that the government needs to protect the youth and create opportunities for them in the region.
An anonymous source from the meeting informed the media that PM Modi focused on removing “Dil Ki Doori” (distance from heart) and “Dilli Ki Doori” (distance from Delhi).
Although no date has been confirmed yet, the general assembly elections in the state are scheduled to take place soon after the delimitation process.
“We’ll Fight This In Court”, Says Omar Abdullah
Many of the leaders released updates about the meeting. Narendra Modi took to Twitter to inform that the meeting with the political leaders of Jammu & Kashmir was an important step in development and growth.
Emphasizing on the delimitation, he said that it is imperative for the Union Territory as it would further strengthen the “grassroots democracy”.
Meanwhile, Ghulam Nabi Azad spoke to the media and informed them of the five demands they had asked from the government. It includes granting full statehood to J&K, releasing all political prisoners, rehabilitation of Kashmiri pandits, employment guarantee and conducting the general assembly elections. He revealed that Home Minister Amit Shah agreed to three of the demands. These are conducting elections, restoring statehood and releasing the political prisons. Shah reportedly said that there are currently 70-75 prisoners and the government is reviewing the situation.
Talking about the proceedings of the meeting in detail, he said that there was no time limit over speeches. So everybody spoke about their concerns for as long as they wanted to. He said that many members pointed out that the meeting should have been conducted last year. To this, PM Modi responded that he also wanted to do the same but it got delayed due to Covid 19.
As he spoke to the media further, he said that they also spoke about Article 370 but they are not going to press over it as it is already before the Supreme Court.
Omar Abdullah also held the same opinion. Talking to the media, he said that the Centre has broken the trust of the people and now it is their responsibility to restore it. At the same time, he stated that the SC has not started the hearings for the case. He assured that if they have to start a campaign, they would do it, but “peacefully, legally and constitutionally”.
As Abdullah spoke about Article 370, he said that his people are not ready to accept it.
“But we won’t take the law into our hands. We’ll fight this in court”, said Omar Abdullah
Mehbooba Mufti also spoke to the media and pressed on bringing back Article 370 that was “illegally” taken away. She said that it was the right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. She also proposed to the government to talk to Pakistan and restore trade relations as many people’s employment in the UT depends on it.
The government is also planning to hold a similar meeting with the leaders of Leh and Ladakh very soon.
What was Article 370?
Article 370 of the Indian Constitution was a temporary provision that granted Jammu and Kashmir a special autonomous status and allowed it to have a different constitution, flag, and Prime Minister within the same country. The post of Prime Minister was later changed to Chief Minister. This law was brought in July 1952 by then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru.
Since the beginning, it has been a very controversial law as it challenges the sovereignty of India, and the founder of Jan Sangh, which later became Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Syama Prasad Mukherjee, was always against it. BJP had always declared in their manifesto that they would remove this, and finally, in August 2019, under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, the law was repealed.