The Gupkar alliance, comprising the local parties of Jammu and Kashmir is set to meet today, decided that its leaders will attend the 24 June meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi " the first since Jammu and Kashmir's special status was scrapped and it was divided into two Union Territories. The decision was taken after the alliance parties met at the Srinagar residence of National Conference president and former chief minister Farooq Abdullah earlier on Tuesday.
Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla reached out to 14 political leaders from eight parties of the erstwhile state for the meeting and asked them to present a COVID-19 negative report, officials said.
Where do Jammu and Kashmir parties stand on dialogue with Centre?
Farooq Abdullah had said on 10 June that "we have not closed any doors or options. If they invite us, then we will decide at that time."
Meanwhile, Mufti had earlier said she was not sure if the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration would attend the meeting, according to The Indian Express, even though she has been authorised by the leadership to take a decision on the same. Another report had confirmed that the former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister is mulling skipping the meet and nominating Abdullah to represent the six-party conglomerate during the talks with Modi.
The BJP and the Altaf Bukhari-led Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party have confirmed their participation in the meeting, while NC, PDP, Congress, Peoples Conference and CPM will announce their decisions after intra-party deliberations.
Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said that restoration of "full statehood" will be "top of the agenda". However, an Indian Express report said he was non-committal on whether he would demand restoration of special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
Tarigami supported the call for a meeting with Modi. "We don't know the agenda of the meeting but it is significant nevertheless. After a long lull, the Government of India is attempting to reach out to us. If the meeting is beyond statehood and (early) assembly elections, we will have to wait and see," he was quoted as saying by The Wire.
People's Conference spokesperson Adnan Ashraf Mir said the leaders "appreciated the initiative of the Prime Minister and hoped the engagement would evolve into something bigger to facilitate the return to democracy and empowerment of the people of J&K." The party had withdrawn from the Gupkar alliance earlier this year.
Who has been invited to the meet?
Besides Abdullah and Mufti, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, Congress leader Tara Chand, People's Conference leader Muzaffar Hussain Baig, and BJP leaders Nirmal Singh and Kavinder Gupta have been invited to the meet. CPM leader Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami, Jammu and Kashmir Apni Party (JKAP) chief Altaf Bukhari, Sajjad Lone of the People's Conference, J&K Congress head GA Mir, BJP's Ravinder Raina, and Panthers Party leader Bhim Singh have also been invited.
Why is the 24 June meeting being held?
Sources familiar with the matter told Hindustan Times that added that while delimitation will be discussed at the meeting, the larger idea is to restart the political process. The meet comes weeks after the delimitation commission for Jammu and Kashmir wrote to all 20 of the UT's district commissioners seeking both quantitative and qualitative data.
Reportedly, the meeting with Modi is to ensure the participation of the UT's political parties in the process. The PDP and the NC have boycotted the exercise of redrawing the constituencies in the UT in accordance with the provisions of Part V of Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Act, 2019 and Delimitation Act, 2002.
The commission held a meeting in February this year, which was attended by Union minister Jitendra Singh and MP Jugal Kishore Sharma, but given a miss by Abdullah, Mohammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi.
What is the Gupkar alliance?
Seven mainstream political parties of Jammu and Kashmir cobbled up the People's Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) in October last year with the aim of restoration of Article 370. The alliance includes National Conference (NC), PDP, CPI, CPM, PC, JKPM and ANC, with NC chief Farooq Abdullah as its chairman and PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti as vice-chairperson. Sajjad Gani Lone of People's Conference is the spokesman for the amalgam. Abdullah called it an "anti-BJP platform" and "not an anti-national amalgam".
The alliance was announced two days after Mufti was released, becoming the last prominent mainstream politicians who had been jailed since the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status to walk free.
Pakistan issues a warning to India
Ahead of the meeting on Thursday, Pakistan said it will oppose any move by India to "divide" or change the demography of Kashmir. In an official statement issued by Pakistan's foreign office, the country's foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that India must refrain from taking any "further illegal steps" in Kashmir after its actions of 5 August, 2019.
With inputs from agencies