Invoking Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s mantra of Kashmiriyat, Insaaniyat and Jamhooriyat to take Kashmir forward on the path of progress and development, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday asked stone-pelters in the Valley to shun violence and adopt the path of progress through tourism.
Inaugurating South Asia’s longest road tunnel between Chenani and Nashri, Modi said the “tunnel of fortune” was “Jammu & Kashmir’s giant leap towards
development and progress”.
There were two roads before the youth of Kashmir today, the PM said. “One is of tourism, the other is of terrorism. Many people have lost their lives during the last 40 years, but it has not benefitted anybody,” he said.
“If blood has been shed, it has been spilled on the soil of Kashmir. And if a life has been lost, it is a mother in Kashmir or in India who has lost her son. This game of shedding blood has not benefitted anybody in Kashmir,” the PM told a nearly 1 lakh-strong crowd.
“However, if they had focused on tourism during all these years, the entire world would have been at the feet of Kashmir,” Modi said.
The thousands of crores spent on building the tunnel may have been the Government of India’s money, but the sweat that was shed belonged to the youth of Kashmir, the PM said. “Over 2,500 youths from Kashmir broke stones and built this tunnel day and night for 1,000 days, creating countless job opportunities which are beyond anybody’s imagination,” he said.
“I want to tell the youth of Kashmir what is the power of stone. On the one hand, while some misguided youths have been throwing stones (at security forces), there are many youths from the Valley who have been breaking stones to bring fortune to Kashmir,” Modi said.
The 9.2 km-long road tunnel that bores through the belly of the lower Himalayas is an achievement of engineering that incorporates India’s first fully integrated mechanism to externally control everything from the movement of vehicles to the inflow and outflow of air, and even the evacuation of passengers or vehicles in distress.
The tunnel, built at a cost of Rs 3,720 crore, is at an altitude of 1,200 metres (nearly 4,000 feet). It will cut travel time on National Highway 44 between Jammu and Srinagar by about two hours by shortening the distance between the cities by 30 km, and will altogether bypass Kud, Patnitop and Batote, locations where the highway is prone to being blocked by snow and landslides.
The tunnel would play an important role in creating a new history of tourism in Kashmir, Modi said. The tunnel may have been built between the districts of Udhampur and Ramban, “but the people of the Valley shall never forget that it is the luck line of Kashmir”. It would ensure perishables are not spoilt en route and farmers and fruitgrowers don’t suffer, the PM said. “This tunnel has come as a blessing for the farmers of Kashmir as they will now be able to bring their produce to markets in Delhi for sale on time.”
Modi referred to every Indian’s dream of visiting Kashmir once, and asked the people of Kashmir to understand the power of tourism. Once tourism increases, Kashmir will automatically move ahead on the path of progress and development, he added.
Kashmir, the PM said, had the potential to rapidly increase its per capita income. “I can realise its strength, as I have worked and lived here as an RSS worker. I know many people here and its Sufi culture. If we forget these priceless values, we will lose our present and make our future dark,” he added.
The PM invoked Vajpayee’s Kashmiriyat, Insaaniyat and Jamhooriyat mantra, and reiterated his government’s resolve to take Kashmir forward. “We will continue taking one step after another in this direction and no hurdle can stop us,” he said in an apparent reference to separatists and mainstream opposition, besides Pakistan.
“Those sitting across the border cannot even take care of themselves,” he said, adding that “through development of Kashmir, we will show the people of Pakistan occupied Kashmir what real development is. “Kashmir will be developed to such an extent that people of PoK will realise that Pakistan has only ruined them.
“Development is our mantra, and public participation is our way,” Modi said, adding that “we have to take along the youth to build the future”.
Nine more tunnels had been planned in the state, he said. “They will not only connect roads, but also hearts.”