The Kolkata-based Centre for Peace and Progress held a round table discussion on “Another Look at Articles 35A & 370: Statehood for & Elections in Jammu & Kashmir” among a cross section of people from Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and other States at India International Centre (IIC) on June 17, 2023.
The participants expressed concern that the abrogation of Article 370 and Article 35A was carried out without the involvement of the people of erstwhile state of Jammu & Kashmir and in the absence of their elected representatives.
They described the action as Constitutional Impropriety that undermined commitments made by successive governments & the architects of accession without regard for history.
They emphasized that the downgrading of the state and its division has led to marginalization and dissatisfaction among the people of J&K.
In the discussion, the denial of democratic rights and the absence of assembly elections were seen as disempowering factors, causing distress and deepening the existing trust deficit.
The participants hoped that the Election Commission holds assembly elections soon, allowing the people of J&K to exercise their democratic rights freely and choose their representatives to restore faith in the democratic processes of the nation.
There was near unanimity during the discussion that peace continued to elude the region and violence still claimed innocent lives. This indicated lack of clear policy for sustainable peace & security.
Furthermore, economic distress, denial of audience, political disempowerment, communalization of J&K, unfulfilled commitments made in Parliament, failure to acknowledge ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pandits, failure to compensate the community socially, politically & economically, and failure to ensure their safe return and rehabilitation, excessive use of state power to suppress the voice of the people and the absence of dialogue were identified as contributing factors to a sense of alienation, fear and a deficit of trust among the populace.
Later the Chairman Centre for Peace and Progress Om Prakash Shah wrote a letter to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi forwarding the following recommendations for his consideration:
Restoration of statehood: the restoration of statehood in J&K is essential to address the concerns raised by the participants.
Conduct early elections to Assembly: Holding elections at the earliest is crucial to regain the confidence of the people. It will be a significant step towards rebuilding democratic institutions for people – friendly governance in the region.
Facilitating legal disposal of cases on Article 370 & Article 35A: The pending petitions related to Article 370 & Article 35A in the Supreme Court should be given early disposal, considering their wider constitutional consequences.
Addressing Unemployment & Distressing Economy: Efforts should be made to address the issue of unemployment & revive the economy of J&K. Comprehensive measures including skill development programs, promotional entrepreneurship & attracting investments, should be implemented to improve the overall economic well-being of the region.
Return & Rehabilitation of Pandits: Recognizing the urgency to address the long pending issue of the Pandits, the efforts for their return & rehabilitation should be expedited under a result oriented & sustainable policy.
Foster Dialogue & Reconciliation: Meaningful dialogues & reconciliation initiatives should be undertaken to address the grievances & aspirations of all stakeholders in J&K.
Focus on Sustainable Peace & Security: Efforts should be made to establish sustainable peace & security in J&K.
The letter was endorsed by all the participant speakers of the round table discussion.
The participants also expressed the desire to have a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to brief him about all these critical issues in-person.
The following were the speakers at the roundtable discussion on “Another Look at Articles 35A & 370: Statehood for & Elections in Jammu & Kashmir”;
- Aadil Nazir Khan – Social Activist
- Aarti Tikoo – Journalist
- Angad Singh Khalsa – Social Activist
- Ashai Sheeban – Chief, J&K People’s Party
- G.K. Mujju – Academician, Newspaper Editor
- Harsh Dev Singh – Former Minister (J&K)
- I.D. Khajuria – Political Activist
- Kapil Kak – Retired Air Vice Marshal
- Mani Shankar Aiyar – Former Union Minister
- Muzaffar Shah – Sr Vice President, Awami National Conference (J&K)
- Nandita Haksar – Advocate
- Nizamuddin Bhat- Former MLA(J&K), Journalist
- Tanvir Sadiq – Chief Spokesperson, National Conference (J&K)
- Tasleem Rehmani – Political Activist
- Waqar Bhatti – Political Activist