05:48 GMT05 August 2021
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    The Narendra Modi government has started the consultation process with political parties to conduct assembly elections in restive Jammu and Kashmir. This was the first such meeting in the last two years as hundreds of political cadres were detained by the police soon after the revocation of the disputed region's special status in August 2019.

    Almost two years after abolishing Jammu and Kashmir's special rights, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24 June called an all-party meeting where he invited all the top leaders of political parties representing the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. However, days after the meeting, several political parties including the People's Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference (NC) alleged that the gathering was not satisfactory

    Sputnik spoke with Najmu Saqib, a PDP spokesperson, who stressed that the BJP is enforcing its decision on Jammu and Kashmir – earlier the party took away its statehood without consulting the relevant stakeholders.

    Sputnik: The federal government started the political process in Kashmir with the first meeting on 24 June. How is the process underway?

    Najmu Saqib: We were really hopeful that there will be the restoration of Article 370 and statehood to Jammu and Kashmir. There will be certain confidence-building measures taken by the federal government. So we went with the hope that something better will happen for Jammu and Kashmir.

    However, the outcome was not really positive. We expected real talk on specific issues — hundreds of political prisoners and youngsters languishing in jails or under house arrest since 5 August 2019, they needed to be freed. 

    We were hopeful that the federal government would take some concrete steps, that they would try to promote confidence-building measures, and talk about restoring Jammu and Kashmir's statehood, but nothing happened in the meeting. 

    Sputnik: You said that you were hopeful and attended the meeting with the prime minister on 24 June. On 5 July, the Delimitation Commission (to redraw the boundaries of the various assembly and parliamentary constituencies based on a recent census) visited the state and again held a meeting with political parties, but you boycotted. What went wrong from 24 June to 5 July.

    Najmu Saqib: Delimitation for what? On the one hand, the BJP assures us of full statehood and on the other hand, they call for delimitation. 

    The Delimitation Commission derives its power from the Reorganisation Act 2019, which downgrades Jammu and Kashmir from a state to union territory, if we accept the commission, then we cannot ask for statehood. Both ideas can't go hand in hand. 

    We need clarity, and that's why we didn't participate in the meeting. 

    Sputnik: In December, many state political parties boycotted the District Development Council (DDC). But, the BJP still went ahead with the election. Do not you think that the BJP may take a similar stand this time again, whether you participate or not in this political process?

    Najmu Saqib: That's what our argument is. Before participating in any meeting, we want to know what our role is? Are we a mute spectator, are we a consultative member, or do we have an advisory role? 

    Also, what are the parameters to make any decision?  What are the parameters of the delimitation commission or for that matter, any decision? Disclose them. If they have called up the meeting on some issues – share the draft with us, and we will raise our concerns. 

    The BJP cannot make a decision and then call for a meeting. What's the point of such meetings? And, by not participating in the meeting, we have conveyed our argument. If this continues to happen in the future, we won't attend any meetings as a mute spectators, we will boycott them. 

    Sputnik: Several political parties allege that the delimitation process is an attempt to alter the demography of the region. Do you have similar concerns?

    Najmu Saqib: Yes, the BJP believes in the enforced decision. On 5 August 2019, without any consultation, they took a decision against the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Now, they are enforcing the Delimitation Commission. 

    But, if we go by the 2011 census, the demographic change is impossible unless you do daylight robbery. As of now, I don't think that the BJP will do something to change the demography, that's not possible. 

    Sputnik: What are the other options you're mulling over? 

    Najmu Saqib: We are raising the issue and protesting against it democratically. We are in consultations with other parties to decide the future course of action. 

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