A LOT has been written about the June 24 meeting between prime minister Narendra Modi and J&K leaders. The drift of the analyses hasn't set much store by the meeting, terming it more an exercise in public relations than a genuine outreach to Kashmir. And it's true: the takeaway of the meeting isn't cause for any celebration.
In his statement, the PM stressed expediting the delimitation exercise that is expected to enhance the seats of J&K assembly. More of these are believed to go to the former state's Jammu division. To this end a delimitation commission has already been in place since the last over a year and it may soon complete its exercise.
The enhancement of the Assembly seats, the PM's statement indicates, will be followed by holding of the elections within the union territory framework. Though the statement does not say it, the statehood is hoped to be followed by the elections. And it is not clear whether this statehood would be full or a truncated one where the real power would vest with the governor.
So actually there is nothing concrete that has come out of this meeting. The centre has more or less stayed true to its ideological course on Kashmir and ironically wants now Kashmiri leaders to be its partners in this pursuit.
In Kashmir, the run up to the meeting was marked by a hectic political activity. The leaders of the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) met at the residence of the alliance's chairman and National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah to decide their course of action. Earlier, the parties had held consultations within their own ranks on Delhi’s outreach. It didn't take them much time to decide to attend the meeting.
In their interaction with the media, the PAGD leaders reiterated that the restoration of Article 370 is their single point agenda. But what reportedly happened during the meeting with the PM hasn't given any confidence that they have stayed true to their word. Going by the reports in the media, the accent in the meeting has been on the return of statehood. Leaders have generally eschewed demanding the restoration of Article 370. The PAGD members also are reported to have talked about the repealed constitutional provision in subdued tones. This has not gone down well in Kashmir where people expected the PAGD and the other leaders to forcefully raise their issues, particularly the withdrawal of J&K autonomy.
On its part the centre hasn't departed even marginally from its Kashmir agenda. Only difference now is that it wants to take the entire spectrum of mainstream politicians on board its Kashmir project. And the latter, it appears, is willing to play the ball.
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