SRINAGAR: Kashmiri politicians will urge Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to restore held Kashmir’s autonomy when they meet him on Thursday for the first talks since he took away the region’s special status two years ago, party officials said.

New Delhi has struggled for decades to dampen freedom sentiments in occupied Kashmir, accusing Islamabad of supporting militants.

Reasserting New Delhi’s control in August 2019, Modi abolished Article 370 of the Indian constitution, ending the held state’s autonomy and removing its statehood by splitting it into ‘union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh’.

Some of the politicians set to meet Narendra Modi were among the thousands of people detained back then to forestall a backlash against the shock move. The government also imposed months-long communications restrictions in the highly-sensitive valley to stifle opposition.

“Our agenda is restoration of pre-August 5, 2019, status of Jammu and Kashmir,” Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti told her colleagues on Sunday, according to two officials who attended the online meeting.

Senior leaders of the National Conference also met over the weekend and backed a decision to push for the restoration of statehood and special status, a party official said.

“We will press for these two demands during the meeting with the prime minister,” the official said.

Representatives of the PDP and National Conference will meet on Tuesday along with other members of an alliance formed last year to seek a peaceful restoration of held Kashmir’s autonomy, to prepare for their talks with the prime minister, PDP spokesman Suhail Bukhari said.

The 2019 decision to withdraw held Kashmir’s autonomy drew a sharp reaction from Pakistan, leading to downgrading of diplomatic ties and suspension of trade.

But the two countries have held secret talks this year in an effort to reduce tensions, and agreed to observe a ceasefire along the Line of Control.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2021

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