PM Narendra Modi turns his eyes on Jammu and Kashmir: Will he address these five major demands?

Two years after the hasty abrogation of special status from Jammu and Kashmir by repealing article 370 of the Indian constitution, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has now turned his eye towards the former semi-autonomous state in his drive to restore democracy and materialize the measures to conduct the elections in what has now been a Union Territory. 

In August 2019, the Central government had revoked the special status from Jammu and Kashmir. In what was one of the crucial governances of the Modi regime, the government had detained the leaders of Jammu and Kashmir in the abrogation process and imposed a curfew and large-scale restrictions to curb the untoward incidents. While the opposition had labelled the abrogation as an act against democracy, the Center had advocated its move as to act against growing violence in the state under the special status. 

Upon the abrogation, the government has bifurcated the region into two Union territories - Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. Since then, amid the protests and calls for democratic statehood, the regions are under the direct control of the Central government through the Lieutenant governors. After two years, Jammu and Kashmir has now been making headlines as it has been back on Modi's table as the Center begins the operation to restore the assembly in the Union territory. 

Drawing massive attention, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had held a high-level meeting with the political leaders on Thursday and discussed the political process in the region, and completing the delimitation exercise ahead of conducting the elections. The closed-door meeting was attended by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Jammu and Kashmir's Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, and opposition leaders including Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and the Abdullahs of the National Conference. 

In an hour-long discussion, the leaders had kept five demands to the Prime Minister in his drive of building democracy in Jammu and Kashmir. It was a crucial discussion and the first time that Modi had met the dozens of leaders since the pandemic hit the country. Following the meeting, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has said that the leaders have five demands in the meeting- grant statehood soon, release all political detainees, conduct assembly elections, frame domicile rules, and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits in the region. 

Azad said that Union Home Minister Amit Shah has asserted that the government is fully committed to granting statehood to Jammu and Kashmir and all leaders had demanded full-fledged statehood. The Congress leader further said that almost 80 per cent of parties spoke on Article 370 but the matter was in the court. People's Conference leader Sajjad Lone has said that the meeting was held in a very cordial manner while the Apni party's leader Altaf Bukhari has said that the Prime Minister had affirmed to the leaders that the election process will begin when the delimitation process ends in the region. 

Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said that the leaders had placed their objections against abrogating the special status from the state. Abdullah said, "We are not ready to accept it. But we won't take the law into our hands. We will fight this in court. We also told Prime Minister Modi that there has been a breach of trust between the state and the centre. It's the centre's responsibility to restore it." 

On the other hand, BJP's Nirmal Singh has said that almost all political parties came to a consensus that there should be peace in Jammu and Kashmir and a government should be elected democratically in the region. He quoted the Prime Minister as saying that he appealed to the leaders that there would be peace only when everyone works together. The meeting has caught national attention as the Center has been sketching the measures to work on Jammu and Kashmir's statehood. 

According to reports, the Central government thinks that the pandemic has given the prospect to work on the future of Jammu and Kashmir. The abrogation was made with the assurance of restoring the statehood and with the view of that, it has been expected that the Center will soon be rolling out the delimiting exercise after which Jammu and Kashmir will host the elections. However, it is yet to be known whether the elections will be held under the Indian constitution or under the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957. 

Delimitation has been defined as the process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country or a province with a legislative body. In Jammu and Kashmir, the delimitation of Lok Sabha seats was governed by the Indian Constitution, but the delimitation of its Assembly seats was governed separately by the Jammu and Kashmir Representation of the People Act, 1957.  Following the abrogation, a delimitation commission was constituted and it was tasked with the duty of delimiting the assembly and parliamentary seats. 

The delimitation process will be a Himalayan task for the Central government and a major challenge would be balancing the local demands of representations and mapping the region fully under the Indian constitution. Following the meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter and wrote, "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. 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."