New Delhi, Jun 26 (EFE).- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday pledged to restore the Kashmir region as a separate state, nearly two years after having stripped the conflict-ridden area of statehood and the semi-autonomous status that it had enjoyed for decades.
The leader of the regional Jammu Kashmir Apni (our) Party, Altaf Bukhari, told reporters that Modi had assured leaders from the region that a roadmap for holding elections would be established and that the government was “committed” to restoring Kashmir’s statehood.
The decision to bifurcate the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir to two territories directly administered by New Delhi was implemented Aon ug. 5, 2019 and justified by the government as a measure necessary to boost development in a region affected by border conflicts and a separatist armed insurgency.
“Our priority is to strengthen grassroots democracy in Jammu and Kashmir. 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,” Modi tweeted after meeting the leaders of the major political parties in Kashmir.
Thursday’s event, the first if its kind since Kashmir’s partial autonomy was revoked, is being seen as a step towards peace in the region, which lost its own constitution, flag and regional citizenship in 2019.
The dissolution of the regional powers was accompanied by a strict security and communication lockdown, while most of the local political leaders were detained or put under house-arrest. The move led to massive street protests and growing anti-India sentiment in Kashmir.
Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of India’s main opposition party Indian National Congress in Kashmir, said that the Kashmiri leaders had pressed the demands of restoring statehood, holding assembly elections to restore democracy, return of the exiled Hindu community of Kashmiri Pandits and the release of all political prisoners during the meeting with Modi.
Many of the 15-odd leaders who met the prime minister had themselves been detained in 2019 by the authorities to prevent them from leading protests.
“People of Jammu and Kashmir are in a lot of difficulties after Aug. 5, 2019. They’re angry, upset and emotionally shattered. They feel humiliated,” former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti said after the meeting.
“I told PM that people of Jammu and Kashmir don’t accept the manner in which Article 370 (which granted partial autonomy to the state) was abrogated unconstitutionally, illegally and immorally,” she added.