Thousands of people, including traditional and prominent Kashmiri rulers, were arrested and a crippling multi-month lockdown was imposed in August 2019.
Kashmir’s rulers have long called for the restoration of semi-autonomy and the holding of elections, but India is working to readjust some parliamentary assemblies and constituencies in a process known as ‘delimitation’ .
Modi took to Twitter later Thursday to reiterate the line he took during the approximately three-hour talks in New Delhi.
“The delineation has to be done at a rapid pace so that the polls can take place and J&K [Jammu and Kashmir] obtains an elected government that strengthens J & K’s development trajectory, ”he posted on Twitter.
Today’s meeting with the political leaders of Jammu and Kashmir is an important step in the ongoing efforts towards a developed and progressive J&K, where overall growth is fostered. pic.twitter.com/SjwvSv3HIp
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) June 24, 2021
Regional leaders said they insisted on their demand for state restoration and limited autonomy during the talks.
“We told the Prime Minister that we do not support what was done on August 5, 2019,” said Omar Abdullah, head of the National Conference of the regional party.
“We are not ready to accept it, but we will not take the law in hand, we will fight in court. “
In addition to revoking the region’s statehood and semi-autonomy in August 2019 by abolishing Article 370 of the constitution, India split its only Muslim-majority state into two federally administered territories – Ladakh and Jammu-Kashmir – and removed legacy protections on land and jobs for local people.
The Modi government said the move was necessary to speed up development in the region.
The meeting comes just months after India and Pakistan reaffirmed in February a 2003 ceasefire agreement along a disputed border in Kashmir.
The predominantly Muslim region is split between India and Pakistan, both claiming to be in their entirety.
“To feel humiliated”
The shocking decision to revoke statehood and semi-autonomy in the region sparked protests from thousands of people and was criticized by local leaders who said they were never consulted.
Prior to the move, India had also locked down the heavily militarized Kashmir Valley and imposed strict travel and telecommunications restrictions, cutting off most phone and internet links for weeks.
Even 18 months later, mobile broadband internet had only been partially restored and local leaders complain of an erosion of civil rights.
“I have spoken about the pain, anger and frustration among the people of Jammu and Kashmir since August 2019, how they feel humiliated,” said Mehbooba Mufti, leader of the People’s Democratic Party regional.
“The people of Jammu and Kashmir do not accept the unconstitutional deletion of section 370.”
Many people in Kashmir have criticized the “delineation”, fearing that it is intended to tip the balance of power in the region in favor of Hindu rulers.
Nisar Ahmad, a university student from Kashmir’s main city, Srinagar, said he did not have high hopes for Wednesday’s meeting.
“They are not going to go back on what they did,” Ahmad told Reuters news agency.
International pressure, especially from the administration of US President Joe Biden, has also gathered on the Indian government to reverse some of its recent changes.
Dean Thompson, acting assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, told a congressional hearing earlier this month that although New Delhi has taken steps such as releasing of prisoners and the restoration of 4G Internet access in the region, “there are other electoral measures that we would like to see them take and which we have encouraged them to do and will continue to do”.