A delegation of the opposition National Conference, led by former chief minister Omar Abdullah, today conveyed to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh the party’s concern over the Centre’s ambiguity in defending Jammu and Kashmir’s special status under Article 35A of the Constitution. The delegation called on Singh, who is on a four-day visit to the state, here this afternoon. “While highlighting the political, historical and constitutional context of the state’s special status, Omar registered the party’s concern and disappointment over the central government’s ambiguity in defending the state’s special status in the Supreme Court with respect to Article 35A,” a spokesman of the National Conference said after the meeting.
Omar also highlighted the “worsened and constantly deteriorating situation” in the valley. The delegation also sought a sustained and open-ended political engagement with stakeholders in Kashmir irrespective of their ideology, and urged New Delhi and Islamabad to make sincere and sustained efforts towards resumption of a comprehensive dialogue on all outstanding issues including that of Kashmir, the spokesman said. He said the party delegation also reiterated its struggle for the restoration of autonomy and asked the central government to initiate a process of reversing “erosions” made to the state’s autonomy that had been violated by extending various hitherto inapplicable central laws to the state, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) being the most recent example. “The party also decried the singular focus on operational and military mechanisms in dealing with an inherently political issue and asked the central government to reach out to the alienated and isolated youth of the valley,” he added.
Meanwhile, party representatives in the delegation from Leh and Kargil, Phuntsog Wangdan Shunu and Aga Syed Abbas Rizvi respectively, highlighted pressing issues in Leh and Kargil. “The representatives raised challenges faced on the connectivity, communication and infrastructure front and sought that the central Government resolves these issues that are a cause of great misery and inconvenience to the people,” the spokesman said. Shunu said the exorbitant airfare to Leh round the year, especially during the months when the road-link is closed, is a source of great misery to the people.
He asked the central government to take all possible measures to ensure a reasonable airfare policy for such hilly areas. He also highlighted poor and in certain places defunct quality of BSNL network connectivity, and said the corporation was solely focussed on reaping benefits of infrastructural monopoly in far-flung areas of Leh while failing to provide even basic connectivity. They also sought measures be taken for utilisation of allocated funds for the Zojila tunnel and connectivity to the national grid. Rizvi also reiterated the long-pending demand of a functional civil airport in Kargil and interim, adequate winter air-connectivity arrangement for Kargil that would enable the district to explore it maximum economic and tourism potential. A PDP delegation, led by party vice president Sartaj Madni, also called on Singh and conveyed the party’s views on the issues facing the state. Delegations of state units of the BJP, Congress, People’s Conference and the CPI(M) also called on the home minister.