The Centre must restore Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood first before holding Assembly elections, National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said on Saturday, according to the The Hindu.

“Not delimitation-election-statehood but delimitation-statehood-election,” Abdullah told journalists about the timeline that political parties in Kashmir were seeking. “If you have to conduct an election, return the statehood first. Whenever and wherever we get a chance, we will keep stressing on this.”

Abdullah added that during the meeting with the Centre on June 24, Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad had told Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the “delimitation-election-statehood” timeline wasn’t acceptable to Kashmir’s political parties.

The National Conference leader said that the demand for the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status will also be put before the Centre “legally, peacefully and constitutionally”, according to The Indian Express.

However, Abdullah said there was no indication that the BJP government would fulfil that demand. “It took the BJP 70 years to fulfill its political agenda for (Article) 370,” he told the newspaper. “Our struggle has just started. We don’t want to fool people by telling them we will get 370 back in these talks. It will be foolish to expect [Article] 370 will be back.”

On Thursday, Modi held a three-hour-long meeting with the leaders of political parties in Jammu and Kashmir. This was the first meeting between the Centre and political parties from the erstwhile state since its special status was abrogated in August 2019.

Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti told Modi at the meeting that the people of Jammu and Kashmir were angry and upset about the manner in which Article 370 was abrogated.

Abdullah also told Modi that the move was unacceptable. “But we will not take law into hands,” he added. “We’ll fight this in court. We also told PM that there’s been breach of trust between the state and the Centre. It’s the Centre’s duty to restore it.”

Meanwhile, Azad, one of the leaders who attended the meeting, said everyone demanded full statehood for Jammu and Kashmir and the government affirmed its commitment towards fulfilling it.

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 and National Conference leaders 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.