Centre invites 14 J&K leaders to meet Narendra Modi on June 24

Gupkar Alliance members to discuss strategy, says Tarigami.

In a first political engagement since the August 5, 2019 move by the Centre to end J&K’s special constitutional position, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will give an audience to the mainstream leadership, including those who were incarcerated for opposing the Centre’s move, from the region on June 24.

The Union Home Secretary on Saturday evening extended invitation to the leadership of the J&K-based political parties, including the National Conference, the Peoples Democratic Party and the CPI(M). PM Modi will chair the meeting. All the leaders have been asked to go for a RT-PCR test before attending the meeting.

The invitation has been extended to NC’s Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah; Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad, Tara Chand and G.A.Mir; PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti;  Peoples Conference’s Sajad Gani Lone and Muzaffar Hussian Baigh; Apni Party’s Altaf Bukhari; BJP’s Ravinder Raina, Nirmal Singh and Kavinder Gupta;  CPI(M)’s M. Y. Tarigami, and National Panthers Party’s Prof. Bheem Singh.

“We have received a formal invite. The alliance will sit together and discuss the proposed meeting,” CPI(M) leader and Gupkar Alliance spokesman M.Y Tarigami said.

Earlier in the day, National Conference (NC) president and Peoples Alliance for the Gupkar Agenda chief Dr. Farooq Abdullah said the amalgam will meet once a formal invitation comes from Delhi.

Dr. Abdullah, who heads an amalgam of five political parties, recently showed willingness to engage with New Delhi. Sources said Dr. Abdullah was among the first regional leaders whom Delhi got in touch with. He was among the hundreds of mainstream leaders and workers arrested in 2019 in the wake of the Centre’s move to abrogate J&K’s special status.

The Gupkar alliance, also holding a meeting in coming days, is likely to put up a joint front and a common narrative when they meet the Prime Minister. The alliance is for the restoration of the pre-August-5 position of J&K.

Sources close to Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti, who also opposed the Centre’s move in 2019, said she is reluctant to be a part of the meeting “unless the Centre spells out its agenda” and “takes concrete initiatives”. Ms. Mufti has already been conveyed on the phone about the meeting by officials from New Delhi, according to PDP spokesman Suhail Bukhari.

“Ms. Mufti has called a meeting of the party’s Political Affairs Committee (PAC) on Sunday to take a final call on the proposed meeting,” Mr. Bukhari said.

Meanwhile, Sartaj Madani, uncle of Ms. Mufti, was released after a six-month long preventive detention from a Srinagar sub-jail on Saturday. Officials said Madani’s required detention period under Section 107 and 151 of the CrPC was coming to an end. It was Madani’s second spell of detention since August 5, 2019 and came amid the buzz of talks initiated by the Centre.

Leaders from the Jammu region also expressed their willingness to join the dialogue table. "We will participate in the meeting. J&K requires initiatives as there is a deep sense of deprivation. The Centre removed special status with a lot of fanfare, but the fact is there is an all round deterioration in J&K. Statehood was snatched and the delimitation process was delayed," National Panthers Party leader Harsh Dev Singh said.

J&K Apni Party chief Altaf Bukhari, a former PDP minister who floated his own party in 2020 and also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier, said, “Solutions to J&K’s problems lie at New Delhi not Islamabad, New York or London. Delhi’s invitation to J&K’s political parties is a welcome development,” he said.

The sudden move by the Centre also comes in the wake of pressure from the international community, especially the United States, to restore democratic and electoral processes in J&K, which remains under the Centre’s rule since 2018.

At the same time, this will be the second major peace move in J&K after the successful renewed ceasefire agreement in February this year with Pakistan, which has been demanding a roadmap on J&K to expand the engagement with New Delhi.

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