Politicians to meet PM Modi, Amit Shah on Jammu and Kashmir statehood
A group of politicians, including former ministers, from Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) will seek appointments to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah to discuss restoration of the region’s statehood and to raise concerns regarding government jobs and land ownership, according to people aware of the matter. If it materialises, it will be the first such meeting since the nullification of the Constitution’s Article 370 that stripped the region of its special status in August.
Around two dozen politicians, including Altaf Bukhari, met on Wednesday in Srinagar and decided to seek the appointments for the mitigation of the problems people have been facing since the erstwhile state was stripped of the special status that prevented non-residents from buying land and getting jobs there.
Three former chief ministers Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti and Farooq Abdullah were among hundreds of people detained to prevent protests against the nullification and the division of J&K into two Union territories.
A lockdown and a communication blackout were also imposed ahead of the nullification in August. Most of the restrictions have since been eased but the three chief ministers remain under detention.
The people cited above said a team will be constituted before the appointments with the two are sought.
They added it was decided at the meeting held at former minister and Democratic Party Nationalist leader Ghulam Hassan Mir’s residence on Wednesday. Bukhari as well as rebel Congress leaders Shoaib Lone, Usman Majeed and Hilal Shah also attended the meeting.
The development comes in the backdrop of the Centre’s attempts to rope in Bukhari and another former minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig to restart political activity in J&K, according to officials in Delhi. The Centre last week conferred upon Baig the Padma Bhushan.
“Bukhari does not have political baggage unlike others and, therefore, is more acceptable to the people and New Delhi,” said an official in Delhi on condition of anonymity .
Officials said the government is working on a plan to allow political activity in the state and offer concessions like restrictions on the land sale. The officials indicated Bukhari is likely to take the leadership of this initiative. He has had several rounds of meetings with government functionaries, the officials said.
The government’s move to back Bukhari comes after offers to other political leaders, including those in detention, failed to make any progress. It feels political activity around statehood and promises of jobs, land rights have minimal chance of being “hijacked by Pakistan-backed moves”.
Bukhari and Baig have stressed on the need to look beyond Article 370 and advocate for the restoration of statehood and domicile laws that will protect employment and land rights. “Parliament and the Supreme Court are supreme. Once the court decides on the pleas on Article 370, we have to see how best to address the apprehensions of the people of J&K. Like the protection available to several northeastern states, we will also request the government for similar provisions,” Baig said. “Across ethnic lines–Dogras, Kashmiris and Gujjars–there is a feeling of insecurity.”
Bukhari called restoration of statehood and protection of employment and land rights achievable. “I can only promise and fight for what is doable. Protecting the rights of my people is possible. I cannot make the same promise about the restoration of Article 370 and it would be wrong to take my people down that road,” Bukhari said.