Statehood first, then elections —that seems to be the overall mood of political parties in Jammu and Kashmir after the all-party meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and others recently. After the initial bonhomie, at least in front of TV cameras, the party leaders seem to have gone back to square one, suggesting that mistrust still exists between the Centre and the parties.
While National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah said there was “a level of mistrust” in Jammu and Kashmir and it was for the Centre to remove it, as his son and former chief minister Omar Abdullah demanded restoring Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood before holding Assembly polls.
Interestingly, Omar and Mehbooba Mufti, president of PDP, said they won’t contest polls till the Centre accepts all their conditions (restoration of 35A and 370).
Speaking to reporters upon their return from New Delhi, Farooq said he would hold discussions with his party leaders and PAGD constituents before making any further statement on the meeting.
He said the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru promised plebiscite to the people of J&K, but went back on it. He also said that before the 1996 elections, the then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao had promised autonomy from the floor of the house.
“Narasimha Raoji before elections promised us autonomy and said the sky is the limit, but not Independence. We said we never asked (for) Independence, we have asked for autonomy. He promised us from the floor of the house. Where is that?” Farooq asked.
“There is a level of mistrust…We should wait and see what they (the Centre) do… Whether they will remove the mistrust or let it continue,” he added. The former CM said even senior Congress leader Karan Singh has called for the restoration of statehood to Jammu and Kashmir before holding elections.
He said that at the meeting, all invited persons put forth their views. “This was the first step from their side that somehow the situation is improved in Jammu and Kashmir and a political process is restarted,” he said.
The Srinagar Lok Sabha MP dismissed suggestions that the June 24 meeting with the Prime Minister signalled the end of Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) — a six-party amalgam of mainstream parties formed after the Centre abrogated Article 370 and split Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories in August 2019.
Omar said it was made clear to the Centre during the PM’s meeting that the statehood should be restored to Jammu and Kashmir before holding of Assembly elections.
“(Ghulam Nabi) Azad sahib spoke on behalf of all of us that we do not accept this timeline. We do not accept delimitation, election, statehood. We want delimitation, statehood and then the election. If you want to hold polls, you will have to restore statehood first,” he said.
On the process of delimitation, he said the National Conference had authorised its president Farooq Abdullah to take a view as and when the party is approached by the delimitation commission again.
Dismissing suggestions that PAGD was weakened after the meeting, Omar said that in the all-party meet alliance members said nothing which was outside the spirit of the grouping.
“We maintain that we do not accept the August 2019 decisions and we will continue to fight them legally, democratically and peacefully,” he said. Referring to some leaders refusing to talk about the restoration of Article 370 as the matter was sub-judice, Omar said it should not come in the way of discussing the issue.
“It took 70 years for the BJP to succeed in their agenda of abrogation of Article 370. We won’t back off from our mission, even if it takes us 70 weeks or 70 months or more time,” he said.