The Centre has approached political parties in Jammu and Kashmir for a meeting next week to discuss the process of redrawing Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies in the Union Territory, The Indian Express reported on Saturday. It is likely to take place on June 24, according to NDTV.
The key meeting could be the first step towards holding Assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.
The meeting marks the Narendra Modi-led government’s first major outreach to Kashmiri political leaders since it scrapped the erstwhile state’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution in August 2019.
People’s Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti told NDTV that she had received a call for the meeting and was awaiting a formal invite. Her party will meet on Sunday to discuss the Centre’s invitation.
While speaking to The Indian Express, Mufti said she was not sure if the Farooq Abdullah-led People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration, a coalition of seven regional parties in Jammu and Kashmir, would attend the meeting.
In June, Abdullah had hinted that he was open to talks with the central government. “We have not closed any doors or options,” he had said, according to The Indian Express. “If they [the Centre] invite us, then we will decide at that time,” he had said after a meeting of the coalition on June 10.
The Centre had in February 2020 begun the process of delimitation of constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir. A Delimitation Commission was set up in March under the leadership of retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai. Chief Election Commissioner of India Sushil Chandra and Jammu and Kashmir Election Commissioner KK Sharma are the ex-officio members of the commission.
The commission held a meeting in February this year. It was attended by Union minister Jitendra Singh and MP Jugal Kishore Sharma, who are associate members of the commission. Three other associate members – Abdullah, Mohammad Akbar Lone and Hasnain Masoodi – did not attend the meeting.
According to the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act, 2019, which was passed by Parliament in August 2019 and came into effect in October 2019, Jammu and Kashmir will have a legislative Assembly while the Union Territory of Ladakh will not. The reorganisation act had stipulated that the number of seats in the Jammu and Kashmir state Assembly will be raised from 107 to 114 and delimitation will provide for reserved seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
The Centre had abrogated Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5, 2019, and split it into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. Curfews and internet blockades were imposed in the region after that.
Almost all of Kashmir Valley’s political leadership, including Mufti, Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, were put under detention. Farooq Abdullah was released from detention on March 13, 2020. Omar Abdullah’s detention was also revoked over a week later. People’s Conference chief Sajjad Lone was released in July, while Mufti’s detention ended on October 13.
In February, 2021 the Forum for Human Rights in Jammu and Kashmir, an independent body co-chaired by former Supreme Court judge Madan B Lokur said in a report that rights violation continue in the erstwhile state – 18 months after the abrogation of its special status under Article 370.