Article 370 was a tool to spread terrorism, says PM Narendra Modi

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Article 370 was a tool to spread terrorism, says PM Narendra Modi

We want an elected Assembly in J&K, a new government, new energetic people to become legislators and ministers, Modi told the nation in a televised address

Narendra Modi

With several parts of the Kashmir Valley and Ladakh under curfew and a communication blackout, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday indicated that restrictions would be relaxed, and assured people of the region that his government was making efforts so that they face no difficulty in celebrating the upcoming festival of Eid.

Attacking Pakistan, which has termed India’s move as “unilateral and illegal” and strongly protested by downgrading diplomatic ties, Modi said Pakistan used Article 370 as a “tool to spread terrorism”.

“In last three decades, over 42,000 people lost their lives,” he said, adding, “we will rid J&K of terrorism and separatism under new measures.”

In the nearly 40-minute address to the nation at 8 pm, the PM said J&K would not remain a Union Territory for long and soon have an Assembly. He said the Ladakh region will remain centrally governed in consultation with the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council. Modi promised better facilities to the J&K’s government servants, particularly its police force.

The PM reaching out to J&K’s government servants is significant since their role, particularly of the J&K police, will be crucial in the days to come, including on the day of Eid festivities, to maintain peace in the region after relaxing of curfew restrictions. Currently, parts of Kargil and Kashmir Valley are under curfew and over 500 political leaders and workers under police arrest or detention. Eid is likely to be observed on Monday.

Describing J&K as the crown of India, the PM said there was a need to take “precautionary steps”, but people of the region have been steadfast in dealing with resultant inconvenience. Modi said only a “fistful” of elements wished to trigger trouble, but the people of J&K are frustrating Pakistan’s designs in supporting terrorism. “My government is making efforts to ensure there are no difficulties in Eid celebrations, helping relatives living outside J&K to reunite with their families for the celebrations,” he said.

In his speech, Modi termed Parliament doing away with the provisions of Articles 370 and 35 of the Constitution as historic, and detailed how these two laws were obstacles in the path of development of J&K and Ladakh for the last 70 years, as well as discriminatory since central laws for empowerment of women, dalits and other sections of the society could not be enforced in J&K.

The PM also responded to criticism of the Centre turning J&K into a Union Territory. “We want an elected Assembly in J&K, a new government, new energetic people to become legislators and ministers,” he said, adding how the rule of a couple of families has ended, offering opportunity to common people of J&K to come forward to become decision makers. The PM said people of J&K will get the opportunity to elect their representatives in a “transparent” election, akin to the panchayat elections held in December 2018. He said the newly elected panchayat representatives were doing stellar development work.

Modi said he wished to clarify that the voters of J&K will elect their people’s representatives, just as they elected their legislators earlier, and had a council of ministers and a chief ministers. “I have immense faith that new structures will end terrorism and separatism in J&K,” he said.

Modi, however, said much thought went into the Centre making J&K a UT, and “good governance and development” have been the hallmarks of central rule of the last few months. Schemes that existed on the drawing board are being implemented on the ground and administration has become transparent.

Modi said the Centre’s “priority” in the revamped set up in J&K will be its government servants, including J&K police. “They will get all facilities available to government servants of other centrally ruled UTs, including LTC (leave travel concession), education allowance, health scheme and several other facilities,” he said. The PM said there will be an immediate review of these facilities.

The PM said all central government and state government vacancies will be filled at the earliest, which would give jobs to the youth of Ladakh and J&K. He said central public sector undertakings (PSUs) and private sector would be encouraged to create employment opportunities in the erstwhile state, and local youth inducted in Army and paramilitary forces in special recruitment drives. Modi said ‘PM scholarship schemes’ will be extended in the regions, and the Centre will take steps to reduce the burgeoning revenue deficit of J&K.

The PM said J&K and Ladakh had much tourism potential, and appealed for support from all Indians to help in reconstruction of J&K. He requested Hindi, Telugu and Tamil film industries to shoot their films in J&K, technology companies to expand their footprint in the region and promised sports stadiums and academies.

Modi said Ladakh had much potential for cultivation and export of organic plants and herbal medicines, which will improve the lot of its farmers. He said the responsibility of Ladakh’s development will now be on the Centre.

The PM appealed to those who had opposed his government’s move, and also people of India to help his government build a “new Ladakh” and a “new J&K”.

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