The National Conference on Friday demanded the immediate restoration of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, which, it said, was “unconstitutionally, arbitrarily and unilaterally taken away” last year on August 5. In a statement, the party also expressed “deep anguish” over skirmishes along the Line of Control and the Line of Actual Control, and said the restoration of the state’s special status is “pivotal to the lasting peace and prosperity” in the region.

This came days after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan Valley in the worst clash with Chinese troops in over 40 years. The incident marked a massive escalation of border tensions between India and China, which have been rising since May. There were reportedly casualties on the Chinese side too, but the country is yet to give an official count for it.

The statement, issued by party president Farooq Abdullah and other members, said the civilian population in the border areas is under huge economic stress, and the border skirmishes are “to further compound its problems”.

“It is stated that revocation of 5th August 2019 decisions and unconditional dialogue with all the stakeholders is pivotal to the lasting peace and prosperity in the region,” it added. “The statement demands immediate annulment of all the 5th August 2019 decisions and restoration of the 4th August 2019 constitutional position of Jammu and Kashmir.”

The National Conference also called for opening of all traditional routes including Kargil-Skardu, Jammu- Sialkot and Poonch-Rawalakot to allow free movement of people across the LoC and LAC and to promote people-to-people contact and strengthen inter-regional trade and cultural links.

On August 5, the Centre split the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories and stripped it of autonomy under Article 370. It also revoked Article 35A, the law which allowed the government of the former state to define “state subjects” and reserve for them certain rights, such as the right to own land and hold government jobs, as well as a separate Constitution.

As the Centre announced its decision, the state was placed under the most complete lockdown in its history, with restrictions on movement, a communications blackout and mass arrests. Almost all of the Kashmir Valley’s political leadership, including three former chief ministers – Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti – were locked up.

The National Conference said it welcomed “the apparent shift” in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s stand from the “belligerence to amity and peace, discernible from the recent statements of Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari, two senior Ministers in the Union Cabinet”.

It referred to Gadkari’s statement where he claimed that India is not interested in expansion in land either from Pakistan or China and that “India only wanted peace and amity”.

The party also took note “with satisfaction” the change from “a hostile and aggressive posture” across the LoC that “would day in and day out call for armed adventure” to a “conciliatory posture” advocated by Singh. However, it added that “mere statements to create an atmosphere of peace, love and amity” have no meaning unless the Centre respects the political aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.