Addressing his first public rally in the Valley since the abrogation of Article 370 that granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), Union Home Minister Amit Shah Wednesday ruled out any dialogue with Pakistan, even as he went all out to target the “three families that ruled Kashmir for seventy years”.
Shah announced that the elections to the J&K Assembly would be held as soon as the Election Commission completes the process of revision of electoral rolls in the Union Territory.
“Some people are giving me suggestions that I should talk to Pakistan, those who have ruled here for seventy years are giving me suggestions,” Shah told the rally. “But I am clear, I don’t want to talk to Pakistan. I would talk to Gujjars and Paharis of Baramulla. I will talk to the youth of Kashmir. They (Pakistan) have spread terrorism here. What good have they done for Kashmir.”
The rally was held at Baramulla, where multi-tier security arrangements were made with traffic to the town restricted from Sangrama, about 10 kms away. The rally was attended by over 10,000 people, most of whom were from the border areas of Tangdhar, Uri and Bandipore. Some of them were government employees, who accused their senior officials of “forcing” them to attend it.
Shah used a large part of his 25-minute speech to slam the “three families that have ruled Kashmir for 70 years”. While the BJP leaders have often hit out at the families of Abdullahs and Muftis, it was for the first time that Shah brought Gandhis too in the line of his attack.
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“I saw a tweet of Mehbooba (Mufti) ji. She had said that Home Minister should go back only after giving account of what they have given to Kashmir,” Shah said. “Mehbooba ji, listen with open ears and eyes, what we have done, I will give its account but what you and Farooq (Abdullah) sahib have done, you should give that account later… I have come here to ask you, Mehbooba and Farooq sahib, tell us how much investment has come to Kashmir in 70 years, how many industries have been set up, how many factories have been opened and how many youth have been given employment. (There has been an investment of) only 15,000 crore in 70 years. In three years, Modi ji brought an investment of 56,000 crore”.
The Home Minister said the Modi government’s “achievement” was to take democracy to the grassroots in J&K. “Before that democracy was limited to 87 legislators, six parliamentarians and three families – Mufti family, Abdullah family and Gandhi family,” he claimed. “We have taken it to villages, to 30000 panches and sarpanches.”
Dubbing the National Conference (NC) as “Abdullahs and sons” and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as “Mufti and company”, Shah charged that they allegedly gave stones and guns in the hands of Kashmiri youth. “Modi ji brought industry here and gave mobiles and laptops in their (youth’s) hands,” he said. “Friends, we have two models, Modi ji’s model of development, peace and employment and Gupkar model,” he said. “Gupkar model gave us Pulwama attack. Modi model gave a Rs 2,000 crore hospital to Pulwama. Gupkar model gave stones and machine guns in youth’s hands and closed colleges whereas Modi model gave us IIMs, IITs, AIIMS, NIFTs and NEET.”
Shah said 42,000 people have been killed in J&K due to terrorism since the start of militancy in 1990. “Who is responsible for the deaths of these 42,000 people? The three families, who ruled Kashmir for 70 years, are responsible,” he alleged. “You know the most difficult thing is to shoulder the coffin of your son. 42,000 people have been killed here. Has son of any leader been killed ever? We want that the fear of separatism should go away from Kashmir, terrorism should go away and Kashmir becomes the paradise of India.”
He also said Kashmir was a “hotspot of terrorism” earlier, but has now turned into a “hotspot of tourism” under the BJP dispensation. “In the past, six lakh tourists would visit Kashmir annually,” he said. “I have come here in October – 22 lakh tourists have already visited Kashmir so far this year, and it has given employment to five lakh youth.”
Shah listed the developmental works undertaken by the Centre in J&K since 2014 and highlighted the setting up of new medical colleges announced during the Manmohan Singh government, electricity to every village, free health cards to the people among its key achievements.
He said terrorism in J&K has virtually ended, appealing to its people to join the mainstream. “The Modi government wouldn’t tolerate terrorism. Come and join the mainstream and be part of development,” he said.
Shah later visited the border town of Uri to offer condolences to the family of Mudasir Ahmad, a policeman killed in a gunfight with militants in May this year.
Earlier in the day, the Home Minister chaired a security review meeting in Srinagar that was attended by the top brass of J-K Police, Army, paramilitary forces and intelligence agencies besides J-K Lt Governor Manoj Sinha. Sources said Shah was briefed at the meeting on Kashmir’s security situation and about the measures taken for the safety and security of local minorities as well as people from outside the Valley.