NEW DELHI, Aug 8: Reaching out to the Kashmiris with messages of hope and optimism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday assured them of all-round development, early and transparent elections, and end to terrorism as he defended scrapping of Article 370, which he asserted “has only given separatism, corruption, family rule and used by Pakistan as a tool to spread terror in Jammu & Kashmir.”
In a televised address to the nation three days after the far-reaching decision, Modi also sought to assuage concerns of the people after his government bifurcated the state into union territories (UT), saying J&K will not remain a UT for long.
With the Kashmir valley reeling under security clampdown, Modi promised that the government is making sincere efforts to ensure that the people in the region have no difficulties in celebrating Eid, which is on Monday.
“I want to assure friends of J&K that the situation will gradually return to normalcy and their difficulties will ease,” he said, in his nearly 40-minute address.
The prime minister made a strong defence of scrapping the provisions of Article 370, saying the region’s special status offered it nothing but separatism, terrorism, corruption and family rule, while giving a handle to Pakistan to push its divisive agenda.
“We all want that in future J&K assembly elections take place, a new government is formed, new energetic youths become MLAs, ministers and chief minister. I assure the people of J&K that with all honesty and in a transparent atmosphere, you will get an opportunity to elect your representatives soon,” Modi said.
Modi also said his government respects objections of those who are opposed to the decision and is working to address them. He, however, asked them to put national interests supreme and help the government in giving Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh a new direction.
“Removal of Article 370 is a reality, and it was a well-thought-out decision,” Modi said.
Laying out a development agenda for Jammu & Kashmir as well as Ladakh, Modi expressed confidence of rooting out terrorism and separatism under the new system of governance.
“The dream of Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Sardar Vallabhai Patel and crores of Indians has now been fulfilled,” he said.
The prime minister also asserted that no one has been able to justify how Article 370 and Article 35 (A) were benefitting the people of J&K.
Attacking Pakistan, which has termed India’s move “unilateral and illegal” and strongly protested by downgrading diplomatic ties, Modi said Pakistan used Article 370 as a “tool to spread terrorism.”
“In the last three decades, over 42,000 people lost their lives,” he said.
He also said over 1.5 crore people of J&K were being denied benefits of legislations meant for the entire country.
Spelling out his government’s development plans for J&K, he said government employees, including police, will soon get benefits at par with employees of other UTs and all vacant posts in J&K and Ladakh will be filled, creating employment opportunities.
He also assured the people of J&K that they will soon get the opportunity to elect their representatives in a transparent way.
“As J&K will see more and more development, I do not think it will remain a union territory for long. Ladakh will remain a UT,” Modi said.
Earlier this week, the union government revoked Article 370 to withdraw special status to J&K and bifurcated the region into two UTs – Jammu & Kashmir, and Ladakh. They also got a Parliament nod for it.
BJP hails ‘inspiring’ speech, Cong says it lacks conviction
Meanwhile, even as the BJP hailed Modi’s “inspiring” address to the nation on his government’s action on Jammu & Kashmir, the opposition Congress said it was “hardly reassuring” for the people and lacked conviction.
“Right to Education, Minimum Wages Act, Minority Act, social reservation for the disempowered, corruption-free governance, development of J&K and Ladakh is the least that people of these regions, which should have been their rights, will get after this historic decision of PM Modi,” union Home Minister Amit Shah tweeted.
However, senior Congress spokesman Anand Sharma said, “What the prime minister has said is a repetition of what Home Minister Amit Shah has said. That can hardly be reassuring for the people of Jammu & Kashmir… It lacks any conviction and logic which would be reassuring to the citizens of Jammu & Kashmir about the respect of their fundamental rights,” he told PTI.
Sharma said India, being the largest democracy in the world, should have had self-confidence by not denying the people their fundamental rights and liberties in J&K.
Sharma also said the bifurcation of the state and its downgrading was without any precedent in the history of India. He said there is a clampdown in the entire region and it should be lifted.
His party colleague Abhishek Singhvi, however, said the nation as a whole should support the prime minister, and expressed hope that confidence and faith would be imparted to all the people in J&K.
CPI general secretary D Raja said, “It is all rhetoric and nothing more. What stopped him (Modi) from giving a statement in Parliament? This shows that as rulers this government only wants to address its subjects.”
“In fact, what he said was full of excuses, as if he isn’t himself convinced. Also, the people of Jammu & Kashmir have excelled in sports and even civil services exams. How will removing 370 help? He said the UT status is temporary. Ask him what is temporary? It was all rhetoric and excuses for his government’s move,” Raja said. (PTI)