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Jammu and Kashmir: 14 Leaders Invited at June 24 Meeting

Jammu and Kashmir: 14 Leaders Invited at June 24 Meeting

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NEW DELHI, June 19: As the Centre has initiated positive move to decide the future course for Jammu and Kashmir, as many as 14 leaders from newly-created union territory including four former chief ministers have been invited for a meeting that will be chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 24, officials said on Saturday.

Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla reached out to these leaders to invite them to the meeting to be held at the prime minister’s residence, the officials said.

Among those invited are four former chief ministers — Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah of the National Conference, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti.

Four former deputy chief ministers of the erstwhile state, Congress leader Tara Chand, People’s Conference leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig, and BJP leaders Nirmal Singh and Kavinder Gupta, have also been invited to the meet.

In addition, CPI(M) leader Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami, Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) chief Altaf Bukhari, Sajjad Lone of the People’s Conference, J-K Congress head G A Mir, BJP’s Ravidner Raina and Panthers Party leader Bhim Singh have been invited to the meeting.

The meeting — the first such exercise since the Centre announced the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and its bifurcation into union territories in August 2019 — is likely to be attended by Union Home Minister Amit Shah and other central leaders.

When contacted, Omar Abdullah said he had received an invitation and would go along the direction of the party chief.

Sources in the National Conference said over the next few days  Farooq Abdullah will be holding consultations with party leaders.

Sources said the prime minister called the all-party meeting amid reports that the centre may discuss restoration of statehood and other important issues concerning the Union Territory. This is Modi’s first major outreach to end the political impasse over ending Jammu and Kashmir’s special status in 2019.

Another regional party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), led by former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti has said they will hold a meeting tomorrow to discuss the centre’s invite to the meeting.

“I have received a call for the meeting on June 24. I am expecting a formal invite today or tomorrow,” Ms Mufti said. The Political Affairs Committee of the PDP would be meeting on Sunday to take a decision about the talks. The former chief minister said her party will take a call on attending the meeting with the Prime Minister.

Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday met National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and top security and intelligence officers.

In August 2019, the centre ended the special status to Jammu and Kashmir and divided the state into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Top leaders in Jammu and Kashmir – including Ms Mufti, Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah – were arrested just before the centre announced the big decisions in parliament. The three former chief ministers were released later.

The centre is also expected to discuss assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir, due since 2018, when the BJP snapped ties with its coalition partner PDP.

The Gupkar Alliance or PAGD, the seven-party amalgam formed to campaign for the restoration of special status to Jammu and Kashmir – had earlier indicated its willingness to join the talks.

(Manas Dasgupta)

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