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Jammu and Kashmir: Restoring special status is also out of the question, sources said (Representative)

New Delhi:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with Jammu and Kashmiri political leaders on June 24 will discuss the demarcation exercise that began in the new Union territory ahead of parliamentary elections, sources said today, to fend off speculation about a restoration of statehood. Although the government has promised to restore statehood to Jammu and Kashmir in due course, that time has not yet come. The meeting was an attempt by the center to politically confirm the administrative exercise that began in the first week of June, it said.

The sources also admitted that while the issue of statehood can be debated, any such step requires parliamentary approval. There is also no question of restoring the special status granted to Jammu and Kashmir under Article 370 of the Constitution, they added.

For now, the center is ready to begin the assembly election process, for which the demarcation exercise must first be completed.

When delimiting, the boundaries of the assembly and Lok-Sabha constituencies in a federal state or Union territory are redrawn.

The demarcation commission – formed last year and headed by the judiciary (retired) Ranjana Prakash Desai – has already written to all district officials requesting basic information.

Fourteen leaders from eight Jammu and Kashmiri political parties – including the People’s Democratic Party of Mehbooba Mufti and the National Conference – were invited to the June 24 meeting in Delhi. This is the Prime Minister’s first interaction with all Jammu and Kashmiri political parties since August 2019.

So far, some of the political leaders have boycotted the meetings. Leaders such as Farooq Adullah from the National Conference, Hasnanin Masoodi and Mohammad Akbar Lone did not attend the commission meeting.

The PDP also held a meeting today to discuss the invitation. There is still no word about the decision.

At the meeting, the prime minister is likely to ask political leaders to participate in the demarcation exercise so that it can be done by consensus, the sources said. This will also signal to the international community that the government exercise has broader political support and sanction.

Jammu and Kashmir were placed under central government after the BJP ended its alliance with Mehbooba Mufti in June 2018. There has been no political process since then. In August 2019, the center ended the constitutionally granted special status of Jammu and Kashmir and divided it into two union territories.

Most political parties have promised to work to restore statehood and the special status granted in the constitution.