ARRIVING in Jammu and Kashmir days after the announcement of a ceasefire for Ramzan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday appealed to youths to return to the mainstream, calling himself “a disciple of Kashmiriyat”. Welcoming the ceasefire as a sign of the Centre’s “big heart”, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti assured the PM that the people would respond to the gesture. Inaugurating the 330 MW Kishanganga Hydel Power Project, Modi said in Srinagar, “Whether it is the withdrawal of thousands of cases against students or the decision of ceasefire taken in this holy month of Ramzan, the thought behind it is that every citizen of Kashmir gets stability and development. Friends, this is not just a ceasefire, this is also a medium to highlight those who spread terror in the guise of Islam.”
Speaking after CM Mufti, who again called for dialogue to find a solution to the Kashmir issue, the PM said, “The PDP-BJP coalition government, under the leadership of Mehbooba Muftiji, and the NDA government at the Centre, is continuously trying to bring such youth into the mainstream who, influenced by false propaganda, are attacking their holy land.”
He added, “Friends, peace has no alternative. It is my appeal to the youth who have deviated, that they return to the mainstream. The mainstream is their family; the mainstream is their mother and father. The mainstream is their active participation in the development of Jammu and Kashmir.”
At his speech in Jammu, Modi stressed that “isolation to integration” was his government’s development mantra. All those areas which are isolated “for whatever reason” and “where development could not reach” are being given priority, he said. “Whether connectivity is through roads or through hearts, nothing is being left at any level,” the PM said, adding that he made it a point to himself visit areas such as the Northeast and J&K.
In her address at the Srinagar event, the CM told Modi, “I want to tell you that not only us but everybody, especially the mothers, have slept peacefully for the last two-three days (since the ceasefire) thinking that their children are safe. I know, it is not an easy thing. It is a very difficult thing. In 2000, Vajpayeeji did it, and today you have done it. It needs a big heart.” Assuring the PM that people would respond to this gesture from the Centre, Mufti said, “You have taken a step. I assure you that, Inshallah, the people of Jammu and Kashmir will take 10 steps.”
Repeating his words from his August 15 Red Fort speech last year, that the Kashmir issue can be resolved only by “hugging people”, Modi said, “Last year, I celebrated Diwali with jawans at Gurez, and this year, on the eve of Ramzan, I am among you. This is the sentiment of Kashmir… Everybody is welcome here. That’s why Atalji believed in Kashmiriyat and Modi is a disciple of Kashmiriyat,” he said. “I had said from Red Fort that this issue is not going to be resolved by abuses, this issue is not going to be resolved by bullets, it could be resolved by hugging every Kashmiri.”
He also stressed on development as the solution to every problem. “The government will not let anything come undone, but to maintain the union of Kashmiriyat and Jamhooriyat (democracy), everybody has to (play a role),” Modi said. “I appeal to all the citizens of Jammu and Kashmir… all the people, the intellectuals and the religious scholars, they have a big responsibility and they should use all their energy for the development of Jammu and Kashmir. Every issue, every dispute and every difference… it has only one solution and that is development, development and development.”
Without referring to separatist leaders, the PM said people who had issues could take up the same with the “representative” appointed by the Centre for Kashmir, Dineshwar Sharma. “The government has appointed a representative. He is meeting the representatives elected by the people and different organisations. Whatever you want to put forward, go and tell him. He is trying to strengthen the peace process by talking to everyone.”
The event, that saw remote inauguration of the Kishanganga power project by the PM, was held at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre in Srinagar. Several hundred political workers attended apart from government officials and bureaucrats. Modi also laid the foundation for a Rs 4,000-crore road in Srinagar.
At his 24-minute address at Jammu University too, Modi focused only on his government’s development initiatives, including the Kishanganga project and the Pakal Dul hydel power project, the work on alternative routes for the Vaishno Devi shrine pilgrims, and the sanctioning of an IIT and IIM for Jammu.
with inputs from Arun Sharma, Jammu
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines