Announce statehood, elections in J-K on 15 Aug; halt delimitation: Rashtra Manch to PM Modi

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Former Union Minister Yashwant Sinha-led Rashtra Manch on Wednesday demanded full statehood to Jammu and Kashmir, deferment of delimitation exercise and conduct of free and fair elections in the region saying the Prime Minister Narendra Modi should announce these in his Independence Day speech.

The group said the PM in his 15 August speech should announce that full statehood to Jammu and Kashmir would be restored by year-end. Modi, the forum in a statement said, should also announce that “free and fair elections would be held soon after the restoration of full statehood and the delimitation exercise in Jammu and Kashmir would be deferred and held along with other states in India”.

It also urged the Prime Minister to state in his speech that no steps shall be taken to alter the demographic profile of Jammu and Kashmir.

The Rashtra Manch, whose convenors are Shahid Siddiqui and Sudheendra Kulkarni, said it was “seriously concerned” over the situation following the “questionable actions” of the Government of India on 5 August 2019 when it annulled the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution, which provided a special status to Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated it into two Union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.

The Modi government took these decisions without any consultation with the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the group alleged. “These actions, and the utterly undemocratic manner in which they were taken, have caused a deep sense of hurt, humiliation and betrayal in the minds of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”

Lakhs of youth have lost employment in J-K and there has been a worrisome increase in suicides among young people, it said, adding that all the rationalisations given by the government to justify its “drastic actions” and all the promises of ushering in a ‘Naya Jammu and Kashmir’ have proved to be “hollow”.

Noting that the constitutional validity of the repeal of Article 370 is currently before the Supreme Court, it urged the apex court to expedite hearing on it and give its verdict soon.

The Rashtra Manch asserted that “separatism, terrorism and communal politics” are common enemies which must be fought in a united way.

“Jammu and Kashmir is a border state. It directly bears the brunt of any deterioration in India’s relations with two large neighbours – Pakistan and China. The ongoing developments in Afghanistan are also a matter of grave concern since these could have a negative effect on peace in Jammu and Kashmir,” the forum said.

Therefore, the government must act with “extreme care” so as to prevent anti-India forces from exploiting the situation of ‘Dil Ki Doori’ and ‘Dilli Ki Doori’, it said.

“We appeal to the leaders of all non-BJP parties to show solidarity with the legitimate democratic demands and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir both inside and outside the Parliament,” the Rashtra Manch said.

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