By Arun Joshi
Delhi has taken a giant step in reaching a special out to Jammu and Kashmir to end a standoff almost three years that had resulted in thick walls of mistrust and triggered fears of the demographic change in the Valley.
By late Saturday evening all the leaders of major political parties received a call from Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla inviting them to an all-party meeting to be chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 24th at 3 p m.
“ I have received the call, and we welcome it,” said Farooq Abdullah to media persons who reached him for reaction , and about his participation , the PAGD president said that this would be decided collectively bn the alliance , and whatever be the decision, will be shared in a day or two.
Apart from Farooq Abdullah, other prominent leaders who have been invited for the talks, being held for the first time since the abrogation of Article 370 and division of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories of Ladakh , and J&K , on August 5 2019 , PDP president Mehbooba Mufti and Apni Party chief Syed Altaf Bukhari are among those invited . Congress and BJP leaders , too , have been invited .
While Altaf Bukhari had been meeting PM and Home Minister Amit Shah ever since the formation of his party in March 2020 , all pother leaders would be meeting the PM for the first time as they were furious with the Centre for having changed the status of J&K. Altaf Bukhari is the strong votary of statehood, and for that he had been reminding Delhi of Home Minister’s promise made on the floor of the parliament and also arguing that J&K was a big state and it cannot live with the degraded status of the UT. “ The statehood is our right, I have been pressing for it , and will continue to do so,” Altaf Bukhari said.
Prime Minister took this decision of calling all party meeting for he wanted to initiate the process of dialogue leading to political process in Jammu and Kashmir to rehabilitate the political government there. At the same time, he was rebuffing the criticism in some quarters at the international level about his government’s handling of the Kashmir situation . There was a sharp criticism in these quarters the way political leaders were detained , some for more than a year. These included three former Chief Ministers, Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and their successor Mehbooba Mufti .
The things smoothened when a PAGD meeting on June 9 said that it is open to talks , “ Our doors are open for talks, and we have not closed any option,” Farooq Abdullah had declared , but he had said that < “ We will talk if invited.”
After a lot of back and forth back-channel talks between the Centre and the Kashmiri leaders, the invitation was formally made to them by the Centre.
The contentious issue is that whether to grant the statehood to J&K before elections that will follow the report and recommendations of the Delimitation Commission . The Commission’s work is underway.
The people in Kashmir are hopeful that something positive will come out and they have credited PM for breaking the ice.. Kashmir streets are abuzz with optimism as they hope that they will have a political government once the Centre decides to hold much-awaited Assembly polls .