SRINAGAR/NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will chair an all-party meeting with at least 14 politicians of Jammu and Kashmir, including former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Farooq Abdullah, in Delhi on June 24, officials said on Saturday.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah is also likely to attend the meeting, the first such exercise since the Centre announced abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status and its bifurcation into UTs in August 2019. The meeting comes amid reports that the Centre may discuss the restoration of statehood and other important issues concerning J&K.
While it remains to be seen whether the Kashmir politicians would raise the Article 370 revocation issue, a senior BJP leader said no talks can be held on it as the J&K's special status was "scrapped forever". As a goodwill gesture, the government on Saturday released PDP leader and Mehbooba Mufti's maternal uncle Sartaj Madni, six months after he was detained on December 21, a day before the counting of votes for the DDC polls.
Officials said Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla reached invited the leaders to the meeting at the PM's residence to discuss future course of action for the UT.
National Conference, PDP meet today to decide response on Centre's invite
Other leaders who were invited include Tara Chand, GA Mir, Ghulam Nabi Azad (Congress), Muzaffar Hussain Baig and Sajjad Lone (People's Conference), Ravinder Raina, Nirmal Singh, Kavinder Gupta (BJP), Mohammed Yusuf Tarigami (CPM), Altaf Bukhari (Apni Party), and Bhim Singh (Panthers Party).
The National Conference and the People's Democratic Party will be meeting on Sunday to decide their response on the Centre's invite. PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti, who headed the PDP-BJP coalition government from 2016 to 2018, confirmed that she received a call from the Centre for the June 24 meeting in Delhi. She has convened a meeting of the Political Affairs Committee (PAC) in Srinagar to take a call on the invite.
Similarly, NC leaders would be meeting to chalk out their strategy for the meeting. "Farooq received a phone call. However, we have not received any written invitation, which could specify the APM agenda," senior NC leader and MP Hasnain Masoodi said. Apni Party vice-president Ghulam Hassan Mir termed the invite as a "very significant" development.
Political commentator Noor Mohammad Baba said the Centre's change in Kashmir policy may have been prompted by both internal and external factors. "There are more strategic factors. Kashmir is not like any other place in India. It is being watched. There are external agencies. The UN agencies are also keeping an eye on the situation. Something positive is being considered after some persuasion and some work has been done," he said.