NEW DELHI: With Kashmir crossing 30 days under curfew, and a mass unrest triggered by the killing of 22-year-old militant commander Burhan Wani leaving behind more than 60 people dead and hundreds maimed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi finally broke his silence Tuesday saying that "it is sad that boys who should be holding laptops, cricket bats have been handed stones in their hands."
"Our Kashmir is heaven for the countrymen. Every Indian has a dream to travel to Kashmir sometime. But we can see that a handful of people in Kashmir, which is loved by India so much, a few misled people are harming this great tradition," Modi said, while addressing a rally to mark the birth anniversary of India’s freedom fighter Chandrashekhar Azad in Bhopal on Tuesday.
"I appeal to the youth let us together dream of making Kashmir paradise on earth,” he said.
Modi known for speaking his mind virtually on every issue facing India in his weekly radio talk, has been criticised by lawmakers for maintaining a studied silence on Kashmir.
Kashmir has been on the boil since government forces killed Burhan Wani on July 8. Since then, tens of thousands of people have clashed with police and paramilitary forces with massive gatherings at the funerals of those killed in the ensuing violence.
The government responded by clamping a curfew for most of the past month across the Valley but hasn’t been able to tamp down on simmering anger among the local population.
The death toll now stands at 61, and more than 5000 are injured with over a 100 having suffered serious injuries in their eyes because of pellet guns, which could also lead to them being blinded.
Indiscriminate use of force against protesting civilians has added to the mounting outrage both within and outside India.
Modi attempted to control some of that damage, invoking a slogan of “Insaniyat” (humanity), Jamhuriyat (democracy) and Kashmiriyat', enunciated by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who first initiated a peace process in Kashmir following decades of violent conflict.
“We are the people who walk the path that Atal Bihari Vajpayee took when it comes to Kashmir,” Modi said.
Modi appealed for peace and harmony, and asked the youth to keep Kashmir as "heaven" on earth.
"The freedom that every Indian has also belongs to every Kashmiri,” he said and appealed to “those holding guns in Kashmir” to give it up and take up ploughs to turn Kashmir green for the benefit of its people.
Modi thanked the Congress and the country for dealing with the situation in Kashmir in a ‘mature way’.
He said through development, the Centre along with the Mehbooba Mufti government in Jammu and Kashmir was doing their best to find a solution to all problems.
Modi pledged all help for the betterment of Kashmiris. “Kashmir wants peace. The citizen of Kashmir wants to earn more money through tourism,” Modi said.
Whatever Kashmiris want for betterment of their livelihood, the Centre will help," he said.
"Governments of India and Jammu & Kashmir, besides 125 crore Indians, wish you well. They want your development. Whatever India has to give for your development, we are ready to give."
In Kashmir, there has been no dearth of people willing to die for the country, he said, asking the people to join hands in nation-building.
The Prime Minister congratulated Mehbooba Mufti for ensuring that the Amarnath yatra continue despite the 'malicious intentions' of a few people.
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