Underlining that “people of Kashmir have as much right on the country as I do”, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said Monday that if talks on J&K have to be held, he will speak to “my brothers and sisters in the Valley, and the youth in the Valley”.
On his first visit to the Valley following the August 2019 removal of J&K’s special status under Article 370 and its bifurcation into two Union Territories, Shah told a public meeting at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) in Srinagar that he has been subjected to “many taunts”, “cursed” repeatedly, and that the “strongest words” have been used to criticise him.
He asked for removal of the bullet-proof frame around the podium and told the crowd — it included BJP workers, beneficiaries of government schemes, members of Panchayati Raj institutions — that he wished to speak his “mann ki baat”.
“I read in the newspapers today that Farooq (Abdullah) Sahab’s advice to me is that the Government of India should hold talks with Pakistan. He is an experienced leader and has been Chief Minister. It is his advice, but I want to tell Farooq Sahab and especially people here that if talks are to be held, I will speak to my brothers and sisters in the Valley, and the youth in the Valley. Why shouldn’t I speak to you?” he said.
“I am asked why we imposed a curfew after August 5 (2019) and why the Internet was shut down. I would like to tell all that the people of Kashmir have as much right on the country as I do.”
Had these measures not been taken, he said, “who would have died in the situation emerging from stoking the emotions of the youth? The young people of Kashmir would have. We did not want anyone to shoot a young person in Kashmir.”
Targeting those fuelling fears among the people that their land will be snatched following the abrogation of Article 370, Shah said: “Ask the panch/sarpanch sitting here, how much land has been taken away? They are spreading lies. If they come to your villages, tell them that it is not true.”
Renewing his attack on the “three families that have governed Kashmir for 70 years,” he said “these people will not understand the burden of a father who has to perform the funeral of a young son.”
In the years of conflict, he said, 40,000 people have been killed and yet “they have failed to criticise terrorism”.
Urging people to “dispel fear from your hearts”, Shah said no one can disrupt the journey of peace and development in Kashmir.
“I am hopeful that a lasting peace can be brought to J&K. That is why I appeal to the youth of J&K… people who put stones and weapons in your hands, how have they helped you?” he said.
A “new era of development has begun in J&K. You will have seen some of it, but I assure you that by 2024, you will see this reach completion.”
He said those out to disrupt peace have the objective of not allowing tourism and industry to function, that people should remain unemployed and pick up stones. “We want to replace those stones and weapons with pens and books and improve their lives,” he said.
Through the industrial policy enacted in J&K, Shah said investment in the UT is more than Rs 12,000 crore.
He provided land allotment papers to JSW Group’s Chairman and Managing Director Sajjan Jindal to set up a manufacturing facility in Srinagar.
He said by 2022, J&K will see an investment of over Rs 50,000 crore and “5 lakh individuals will gain employment through this”.
Saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been closely following the progress of works in J&K, Shah said the development of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh is the “sole motive” of the government.
He distributed appointment certificates for 6,500 jobs in different categories — these included Class IV jobs, posts of panchayat accounts assistants. He also inaugurated developmental projects in the Valley.
Later, Shah visited the CRPF battalion headquarters in Lethpora in Pulwama. He was to spend the night there. In February 2019, Lethpora was the site of a terror attack on a CRPF convoy that claimed the lives of 40 personnel.
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