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Modi meets Kashmir leaders, say delimitation at a quick pace key for assembly elections

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday told a group of leaders from Jammu and Kashmir that assembly elections there will be held after the completion of the ongoing delimitation exercise, reports said.

During the three-and-a-half-hour-long meeting, almost all the 14 leaders from Jammu and Kashmir demanded that its statehood, which was removed in August 2019, should be restored, one of the leaders who participated in the meeting said.

According to reports, the main focus of the meeting was to strengthen the democratic process and the prime minister said that the government was fully committed to it.

This is the first interaction between the Indian leadership and the Kashmir political parties since August 5, 2019, when New Delhi revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated it into union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

Modi stressed that holding assembly elections, just like the successful conduct of the District Development Council polls, is a priority and that the polls can happen soon after the delimitation exercise, the reports said, adding that by and large, most participants expressed willingness for it.

“The meeting was very cordial and very positive, very dignified. We all agreed that we must work for democracy. The prime minister has assured that he will do everything to make Jammu and Kashmir a zone of peace rather than a zone of conflict,” People’s Conference leader Muzaffar Hussian Baig told reporters after the meeting in New Delhi.

Baig said the government side conveyed that the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir will be held after the completion of the ongoing delimitation process.

“We were conveyed that the delimitation process will be completed first and thereafter a call will be taken on holding the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.

However, he said, no time frame has been given on holding the polls.

“Almost everyone at the meeting raised the demand for restoration of the statehood of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said, adding the prime minister carefully listened to every issue raised by the political leaders.

In a series of tweets after a three-and-a-half-hour-long meeting with 14 political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir, Modi said the deliberations were an important step in the ongoing efforts towards a developed and progressive Jammu and Kashmir where all-round growth is furthered.

“Our priority is to strengthen grassroots democracy in J&K. Delimitation has to happen at a quick pace so that polls can happen and J&K gets an elected Government that gives strength to J&K’s development trajectory,” he said.

The prime minister said it was the biggest strength of Indian democracy that people can sit across a table and exchange views.

“I told the leaders of J&K that it is the people, especially the youth who have to provide political leadership to J&K, and ensure their aspirations are duly fulfilled,” he said.

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