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J&K statehood a must for credible poll exercise, will instil faith, CPM’s Tarigami says

CPI(M) leader & Gupkar Alliance spokesperson, Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, says J&K parties are not against delimitation but want it along with the rest of the country. 

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Srinagar: CPI(M) leader and spokesperson for the People’s Alliance for the Gupkar Declaration, Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami, said the Modi government appears to be in a “confrontational mode with the people of Kashmir”. 

Speaking to ThePrint, Tarigami reiterated that for a “credible electoral exercise”, “restoration of full statehood to J&K is a prerequisite” and that the central government must take cognisance of that. 

“They should understand that restoration of full statehood is a prerequisite for a credible electoral exercise. If the government restores statehood, it will encourage people to vote; it will instil faith in them,” he said. “It will create an atmosphere of confidence. Right now, it feels that the GOI is in confrontation mode with the people of Kashmir.” 

Tarigami’s remarks come on the back of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah meeting mainstream politicians of J&K on 24 June and some of them meeting the Delimitation Commission, headed by Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai (retd) last week. 

The CPI(M) leader told ThePrint that in the meeting with the PM and HM in Delhi, the PAGD was told that statehood would be restored at an “appropriate time”, without any further specifics.  

“What is the appropriate time? What is the limit to that?” he asked. “Now if we say that it is not the appropriate time for elections or the delimitation exercise, will we be heard?” 

Asked if the Gupkar Alliance, a coalition of five mainstream parties seeking restoration of J&K’s special status, will contest the election if it is announced before statehood is restored, Tarigami said the parties have not yet thought about it.

“If elections are announced, we will sit with all parties and discuss what to do further, whether to contest or not,” he said. “We have not discussed this as of now. Although I hope this situation does not arise.”

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‘Pushing of actions will make things worse’

Tarigami’s CPI(M) and the National Conference (NC) were the only two parties that met members of the Delimitation Commission, which includes Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sushil Chandra Sharma and State Election Commissioner (SEC) K.K. Sharma, on 6 and 7 July. 

The Mehbooba Mufti-led Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which was extended an invitation, did not attend.  

Speaking of the meeting, Tarigami said there is a lot of “mistrust in the people of Kashmir, which needs to be restored” and that had been the thrust of their discussion with the Delimitation Commission. He added that “pushing these actions will make things worse”.

“We met the commission and told them that people of Kashmir have lost all faith in the system, and that their actions would only increase the already existing gap, making things worse,” he said.

“The commission came here at a time when people are demoralised and hopeless about things getting back to normal. The delimitation exercise in these circumstances will not convey the message of confidence to the larger public,” he said.

Tarigami added that there are already talks about how this exercise will “favour one section of the population and will also damage the larger interests of people of Kashmir” and so it was important to win their confidence.

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‘Not against delimitation’

Tarigami also said that the parties were not against delimitation but wanted a dialogue.

“We are not against delimitation, but want it to be carried along with the rest of the country,” he said. “Also, we went for the meeting with them because we do not want to lose any chance to put forth what we think.”

Asked how the CPI(M) and NC met the commission when PDP did not, despite being part of the same alliance, Tarigami said that the PAGD was “just an alliance and not a merger” and hence all parties have the right to make their own decisions.

“Only three parties — CPM, NC and PDP were invited. The invitation was not given to us as the PAGD but as individual parties,” he said. “The PAGD is just an alliance, a combination of parties and we can take the liberty of taking our own stand in issues.”

“It was important for us to go for that meeting because we cannot afford to lose any opportunity of a dialogue, or an opportunity to put our views and demands across,” he added.

He said that for the past several years, vested interests have been trying to create a wedge between communities and regions in J&K and under these circumstances, the alliance believes that the 2011 Census provides a guiding frame for the delimitation exercise.

“Neglected sections of the population living in remote areas of J&K also must be given due representation,” he said. “Our submission is to keep the sensitivities of J&K in consideration while conducting the exercise. It should help in bridging the gaps between communities and regions instead of further widening it.”

The CPI(M) also submitted a memorandum to the commission stating that whatever happened on 5 August 2019 was unacceptable. 

‘Meeting with PM provided no solutions’

Tarigami said that although the positive part of the meeting with the PM was that the window of dialogue that was closed for the last two years was opened, they would have appreciated it if the meeting had an agenda and also provided some solutions. 

“For two years, the mainstream parties and leaders here were branded as gangs and detained. Now when we were called, we welcomed the decision, because talking is better than not talking at all,” he said. “But we would have appreciated it if the meeting had an agenda and was not just called to only hear us out, without providing any substantial solutions.”

Tarigami said that the PM gave them enough time to express their concerns but did not give any assurance on issues that were raised, which was “disappointing”.

“We spoke about confidence-building measures among people, promoting business, tourism, release of prisoners who are still languishing under PSA,” he said. “We expressed how avoidable restrictions have been imposed here and people feel harassed on the ground; how laws are being misused and we were heard patiently but no solutions were guaranteed.”

(Edited by Arun Prashanth)

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