Modi says priority is to strengthen democracy in J&K and pave the way for an elected government
New Delhi, June 24, 2021
Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said his Government's priority is to strengthen grassroots democracy in Jammu & Kashmir and the pave the way for an elected government that will strengthen development in the Union Territory.
In a series of posts on micro-blogging site Twitter after his meeting with leaders of political parties in J&K, said that delimitation of constituencies needed to be speeded up so that Assembly elections can be held.
“Today’s meeting with political leaders from Jammu and Kashmir is an important step in the ongoing efforts towards a developed and progressive J&K, where all-round growth is furthered," he said.
"Our priority is to strengthen grassroots democracy in J&K. Delimitation has to happen at a quick pace so that polls can happen and J&K gets an elected Government that gives strength to J&K’s development trajectory.
"Our democracy’s biggest strength is the ability to sit across a table and exchange views. I told the leaders of J&K that it is the people, specially the youth who have to provide political leadership to J&K, and ensure their aspirations are duly fulfilled," he added.
Today's crucial meeting, held to discuss the road ahead, was the first such outreach initiative by the Centre and came almost two years after the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two Union Territories -- Jammu and Kashmir with a Legislative Assembly and Ladakh without one.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, who was also present at the meeting, said the Government was committed to ensuring all-round development of Jammu & Kashmir.
"The future of Jammu and Kashmir was discussed and the delimitation exercise and peaceful elections are important milestones in restoring statehood as promised in parliament," he said on Twitter.
"Today’s meeting on Jammu and Kashmir was conducted in a very cordial environment. Everyone expressed their commitment to democracy and the constitution. It was stressed to strengthen the democratic process in Jammu and Kashmir," he added.
Delimitation, the roadmap for Assembly polls, restoration of statehood and bringing back Kashmiri Pandits were the key issues discussed in the meeting.
The meeting lasted for more than three-and-a-half hours with nobody raising cross-border issues, sources said.
The Prime Minister heard all the suggestions and inputs put forward by the participants and expressed happiness over everyone sharing their frank and honest views.
It was an open discussion which revolved around building a better future for Kashmir with the main focus on strengthening the democratic process in J&K.
Restoration of statehood in Jammu and Kashmir, Assembly elections, domicile rules, bringing back Kashmir Pandits and release of political prisoners were among the five key demands raised by the Congress, senior party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said after the marathon meeting.
The President of Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party, Altaf Bukhari, said that each speaker was heard patiently by the Prime Minister and the major discussions were related to the delimitation process and elections in the erstwhile state.
It was proposed that the elections could take place soon after the delimitation process, to which most of participants agreed.
Delimitation is a prerequisite for conducting Assembly polls -- something which the authorities and the political class are looking forward to as they seek to kick the political process into a higher gear, an objective which can speed up the development process in J&K.
The Prime Minister said the Centre was fully committed to the democratic process in J&K, and holding Assembly elections in the region just like the successful conduct of the District Development Council (DDC) polls is a priority.
He emphasised the need to strengthen democracy at the grassroots level and work together with the people of Jammu and Kashmir to ensure their upliftment.
He expressed happiness on the commitment to the Constitution and democracy espoused by all the participants and said that even one death in J&K is painful and "it is our collective duty to protect our younger generation".
Modi further stressed that "we need to give opportunities to the youth in Jammu and Kashmir and they will give back lots to our country".
The developments achieved by J&K were discussed in detail during the meeting, including the many pro-people initiatives.
The Prime Minister expressed satisfaction with the acceleration of development in J&K and said that it is creating new hope and aspirations among the people.
He further said that when people experience corruption-free governance, it inspires trust among them to extend their cooperation to the administration, something which is visible in Jammu and Kashmir today.
Modi said that there would be political differences, but everyone should work for the national interest to benefit the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
He stressed that an atmosphere of safety and security needs to be ensured for all sections of society in Jammu and Kashmir, adding that he wants to remove the "Dilli ki Duri" (distance from Delhi) as well as "Dil Ki Duri" (distance between hearts).
Four former J&K Chief Ministers were among the 14 leaders who took part in the meeting. Three of them -- National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief Mehbooba Mufti -- were put under detention for six months to one year from August 5, 2019, when the changes were enforced.
Congress' Ghulam Nabi Azad was the other former J&K CM who took part in the meeting.
Among other Jammu and Kashmir leaders at the meeting were Peoples Conference (PC) leader and former Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig, Jammu and Kashmir Congress President Ghulam Ahmad Mir, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, Sajad Lone, Kashmir National Panthers Party's President Bhim Singh and three BJP leaders -- Ravinder Raina, Nirmal Singh and Kavinder Gupta.