Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh -- where the Centre scrapped special status under Article 370 of the Constitution -- that their dreams of development will be fulfilled, and said growth of the regions will be his foremost priority.
"I want to clearly assure my sisters and brothers of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh that these regions will develop as per the wishes of local people, their dreams and ambitions. The growth of these regions will first and foremost be powered by those belonging to these regions,” Modi told news agency IANS in an interview on the first 75 days of his government.
With effect from October 31, Jammu and Kashmir will be bifurcated into two Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh, as a bill in this regard was passed by Parliament and given Presidential assent.
The government on August 5 repealed provisions under Article 370 which granted special status to Jammu and Kashmir and limited Parliament's power to make laws concerning the state.
This also revoked Article 35A which empowered the state assembly to define 'permanent residents' for bestowing special rights and privileges on them, including on land ownership. Under the provision, outsiders were barred from buying land in the state.
In the interview, Modi was asked why does he think the people of J&K will stand with him. To this, the prime minister said: "Please see the list of people who have opposed the decisions about Kashmir - the usual vested interest groups, political dynasties, those who sympathise with terror and some friends in the Opposition. The people of India, irrespective of what their political preference, have supported the steps taken in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. This is about the nation, not politics. The people of India are seeing that tough but essential decisions that were earlier assumed to be impossible are becoming a reality."
Modi also said Article 370 and Article 35(A) harmed India, and a handful of families and separatists capitalised on this. PM Modi said, "It is now clear to everyone how Articles 370 and 35(A) fully isolated Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. The status quo of seven long decades clearly could not fulfil people's aspirations. Citizens were kept away from the fruits of development. The greatest casualty was the lack of any proper economic avenues to increase earnings. Our approach is different — instead of the vicious cycle of poverty, the people need more economic opportunities. For years, intimidation ruled the roost. Let us now give development a chance," IANS quoted Modi as saying.
The news agency also asked the PM about the concerns over democracy.
"Kashmir has never witnessed such a strong commitment in favour of democracy. Remember the turnout during the Panchayat elections? The people voted in large numbers and did not get cowed by bullying. In November and December of 2018, there were 35,000 Sarpanches elected and the turnout in the Panchayat elections was a record 74%. There was no violence during the Panchayat elections. Not a drop of blood was shed in poll violence. This, when the main parties there were lukewarm to this entire exercise. It is very satisfying that now Panchayats are back at the forefront of furthering development and human empowerment. Imagine, for so many years those in power did not find it prudent to work towards strengthening Panchayats. And remember, they gave great sermons on democracy, but the words never led to action," Modi replied.