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Restoring J&K statehood our solemn promise, will stand by it: PM Modi

May 20, 2024
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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said his government has stood by the “solemn promise” for the restoration of Jammu and Kashmir’s statehood.

The PM said the Centre was working very hard to create the right conditions.

Noting that the record voter turnout in Srinagar is one of the “most gratifying things” he has seen in his tenure, Modi said people of Jammu and Kashmir have seen the NDA government’s commitment to democracy enhancement in the region, “even at the cost of us sacrificing power for ourselves”. “The restoration of statehood is a solemn promise we have made and we stand by it. We are working very hard to create the right conditions so that it can be done expeditiously,” he told PTI in an exclusive interview here Sunday night.

The Modi government had abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution, which gave special status to Jammu and Kashmir, in August 2019 and the erstwhile state was bifurcated into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. “Through the abrogation of Article 370, we today have witnessed not just the dreams and aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir coming into fruition but also their enthusiasm for participating in one of the biggest festivals in any democracy -elections,” Modi said.

He said the voting percentage in Srinagar, once a hotbed for all kinds of radical elements, witnessed the highest voter turnout in decades. Srinagar recorded a 36.7 percent turnout–the highest since 1996–in the fourth phase of Lok Sabha elections on May 13. The world witnessed the growth and enthusiasm of the people in J and K when they welcomed the delegates from across the world during the G20 events, he added.

“The progress that Jammu and Kashmir has made in the last five years gives me immense hope that we are on the right path to restore statehood. We want to institutionalize the positive changes that have taken place and make the gains irreversible so that the people of the region have to never witness the torrid years that generations had to bear. “We want to create a Jammu and Kashmir where violence is history, prosperity is destiny. This is our long-term strategy for Kashmir. Our aspiration is that Jammu and Kashmir regain its stature as the hub of culture, knowledge, and tourism along with becoming a center of futuristic technologies like AI (Artificial intelligence),” Modi said.

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On holding assembly elections in J and K, the prime minister said the Supreme Court has set a date for assembly polls in the region and the Election Commission is mandated to follow the directions of the highest court and it is the best organization to assess as to when and how it will conduct assembly elections. In December 2023, the apex court had directed the Election Commission to conduct elections in J and K by September 30, 2024.

Asked for his assessment on the high turnout in the ongoing Lok Sabha polls in J and K after the abrogation of Article 370, Modi said Parliament had put its seal of approval on scrapping this provision in August 2019 and the people had given their implicit approval in 2019 itself and beyond by defying all doomsday predictions and helping maintain peace in the region. Then in December 2023, he said, the Supreme Court imprinted the judicial seal on the abrogation with a unanimous verdict by a constitution bench.

“What the elections in Jammu and Kashmir have done in 2024 is to put a seal of explicit democratic approval as well – the final seal in the trinity of according approval to our historic decision,” Modi said. Modi said the BJP is perhaps the only party in the country that walked out of a government so that more power could be devolved to the people.

“And we fulfilled our commitment by conducting peaceful local body and Panchayat elections in Jammu and Kashmir in December 2018.” In June 2018, the BJP, which was part of a coalition government in J and K with the People Democratic Party (PDP), pulled out of the alliance, leading to the fall of the then Mehbooba Mufti government and imposition of central rule. The saffron party then alleged that it became untenable for it to continue its alliance government as “terrorism, violence, and radicalization have risen and fundamental rights of the citizens are under danger in the Valley”.

Modi said people of the region have seen his government’s honest intentions and the consistent efforts it has made to integrate them into the mainstream of India’s democracy and they have now proactively endorsed the steps taken through this peaceful, high voter turnout.

“I have no doubt in my mind that Jammu and Kashmir has a very bright future and the region will serve as a beacon of democratic empowerment and aspirations.” Asked how the recent situation in J and K aligns with the government’s long-term strategy for the region, the prime minister said Jammu and Kashmir, since 1947, has been a victim of a conflict economy, where the stakeholders were a few politicians, many who were working for their agendas or those of outside forces.

“For almost seven decades, the people of Jammu and Kashmir were denied the right to development, progress, and prosperity because a few families, in India and their masters outside, wanted to use the people to peddle their separatist agenda. This was an irreversible loss for generations of innocent families who were pulled into a conflict. We want to ensure that now there is an irreversible dividend of peace for future generations to come.” Modi said ever since his government came into office in 2014, its agenda has been quite clear — development for all, opportunities for all, prosperity for all. He said for 70 years, there was a conflict, but for 70 years, not all regions were accessible via all-weather roads, or with all the necessities.

“Think about the struggles of the tribal population in the mountains, or the youth in the region who could not get any aspirational jobs like the youth in the rest of the country. We have managed to reverse this trend, especially post-2019,” he added.

The prime minister said from tourism to education, from sports to agriculture, from manufacturing to FPOs (Farmer Producer Organisations), and from SHGs (Self Help groups) to entrepreneurship, the government wants to create an ecosystem for everything within the region itself. “Our strategy is already proving to be successful. You look at some of the events that routinely happen at Dal Lake. I was amazed to see that a Formula-4 event drew such massive crowds. When we replace fear with hope, we convert hopelessness into aspiration.

“That is what we have done and the ripple effect this transformation will have will not just positively transform the region but entire India. This peace and optimism among the people have rattled the terrorists and their sponsors in our neighboring country,” he said.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by The Kashmir Monitor staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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