Disappointed at outcome of Delhi meet, says PAGD
In a statement, spokesperson MY Tarigami said the alliance believes assembly elections in J&K should be held only after restoration of statehood to J&K
An alliance of mainstream political parties in Kashmir on Monday expressed disappointment at the outcome of a landmark all-party meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi two weeks ago, and demanded that the Union government restore the region’s statehood before calling fresh elections.
The five-party People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) also criticised the lack of “confidence building measures” (CBM) by the Centre in its first reaction since the June 24 meeting in Delhi, where the Union government appeared to favour holding elections before granting statehood to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
The crucial meeting was the first outreach by the Union government since it controversially scrapped the region’s special status on August 5, 2019, bifurcated the erstwhile state into two Union Territories (UT), detained mainstream political leaders for months and clamped a communications blackout.
“All the members of PAGD expressed their disappointed at the outcome of the Delhi meeting, especially with the lack in CBMs, such as releasing political and other prisoners from jails, and taking steps to end the atmosphere of suppression. This would have initiated the much needed process of reaching out to the people of J&K who are the biggest stakeholders,” said PAGD spokesperson Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami in a statement.
Tarigami, who attended the meeting as a representative of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) must honour its commitment -- made on the floor of Parliament on August 6 -- on granting statehood to J&K.
“Any assembly election must be held only after restoration of full statehood for J&K. To this end, the PAGD has decided to reach out to other political parties in J&K with a view to take a common position on the issue,” he said.
Bharatiya Janata Party state spokesperson Altaf Thakur said the PAGD has been changing its stand to keep themselves relevant in public. “Earlier, they said that unless Article 370 is restored, they won’t contest any election but they still contested the DDC polls. So this is also a ploy to keep themselves relevant after they realised that Article 370 isn’t coming back. They are now crying for statehood that has already been promised by Home Minister Amit Shah on the floor of Parliament.”
The PAGD – which seeks the restoration of Article 370, which bestowed special status to J&K before being voided by the Centre -- said it will fight using constitutional, legal and political means to reverse the Centre’s decision.
“The PAGD reiterated its commitment to fight together to reverse the unconstitutional and unacceptable changes foisted on the people of J&K on 5th August 2019 using all constitutional, legal and political means at its disposal. “The PAGD’s struggle for undoing these changes will continue as long as it takes while striving to achieve this objective as early as possible,” Tarigami said.
The PAGD statement came after a late Sunday meeting at the residence of National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah, and attended by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti, Tarigami, PDP lawmaker Hasnain Masoodi, J&K Peoples Movement chairman Javed Mustafa Mir andAwami National Conference vice-president Muzaffar Ahmed Shah.
Abdullah, Mufti, Tarigami, Masoodi were among the 14 people who attended the June 24 meeting.
At the three-hour event, Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah stressed on grassroots democracy and the importance of conducting elections in J&K, stating their commitment to restoring the region’s statehood, and urging mainstream leaders to participate in the ongoing delimitation exercise, a contentious process of redrawing poll constituencies.
The all-party meeting – which happened after weeks of backchannel talks by national security adviser Ajit Doval and the home ministry -- represented a sharp change in the central government’s policy and was seen as an effort to break the ice with the regional parties and reset political process in the UT.
But PAGD politicians indicated that crucial disagreements remained, especially on reinstating Article 370 and returning statehood before conducting assembly elections, which were last held in 2014.
At the meeting, the Centre assured that the demand for full statehood will be met but Kashmiri politicians pushed for its restoration before new elections are held, said a person aware of developments. But the J&K leaders were told that elections could not precede the delimitation exercise as the 2019 Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act laid down the condition of carving out new constituencies for polls, said the person quoted above.
Despite the overtures, NC and PDP were both non-committal on meeting the delimitation commission, which lands in Kashmir for a three-day visit on Wednesday. Both mainstream parties have boycotted the commission’s meetings so far. Three MPs from the region, NC’s Abdullah, PDP’s Masoodi and Akbar Lone, are members of the commission along with two BJP MPs from Jammu. The panel has until March 2022 to finish the process.