NEW DELHI: Jammu and Kashmir, shorn of its special status, spent Independence Day under a tight security blanket on Thursday amid a communications blackout, even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi and governor Satya Pal Malik reached out to Kashmiris.
With Kashmir reeling from a complete clampdown following the scrapping of its special status under Article 370 and the state’s bifurcation, both Modi and Malik tried to placate the Kashmiri public, following episodes of backlash.
“The aspirations of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh need to be fulfilled and that is our responsibility. So, we have taken on the task to remove their problems. Separatism has given wings to terrorism and corruption, and solidified the problems,” Modi said in New Delhi.
Hailing the new order as “One Nation, One Constitution,” Modi said that within 70 days of the National Democratic Alliance coming to power, the two Houses of Parliament had voted with two-thirds majority to remove Articles 370 and 35A.
In his address, made at the Sher-i-Kashmir stadium in Srinagar, Malik assured the Kashmiris that the move will not hamper their growth. His address to the Kashmiri public came in the wake of a security blanket and several reviews by national security adviser Ajit Doval.
“The identity of people of Jammu and Kashmir is neither at stake nor tampered with after the abrogation of the state’s special status by the Centre. This is historical and will open new doors of development and help various communities promote their languages and cultures in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh,” Malik said, adding that the move had removed roadblocks to economic development and prosperity.
Both Modi and Malik said separatism and terrorism had hindered development in the region, leading “people astray from the path of economic development”.
Security experts said the Centre had found an opportunity to “reboot” Kashmir. “The 72 years represent lost opportunities and here is a chance to correct that. The situation of Kashmir was appropriated by Pakistan to its advantage while siphoning off territory to China. India has made efforts to maintain a status quo but that turned into a security liability,” said D.P.K Pillay, a research fellow at the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses.
Pillay added: “India tried hard to mainstream Kashmir, but Pakistan held the Kashmir issue hostage. The State (Pakistan) is not in a position to foment trouble anymore. This is an appropriate time to reboot.”
“Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh can be beacons of peace and development for India and we should try to restore their lost glory and this new arrangement should work for their betterment,” Modi said in his Independence Day speech, adding that after India had been partitioned, the people who settled in Jammu and Kashmir did not get their basic rights.