Srinagar: On his first visit to Jammu and Kashmir since the revocation of Article 370 in August 2019, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Saturday defended the Centre’s decision saying that it has led to a decline in terrorist incidents and ended stone-pelting.
Addressing members of Kashmir’s youth clubs at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre here, Shah said that August 5, 2019 will be written in golden letters in history as it ushered in an era of peace, development and prosperity in the Valley.
The Centre revoked the special status of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir and divided it into two union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh — on August 5, 2019.
On the curfew imposed in J&K after the abrogation of Article 370, Shah said it was like a “bitter pill” that helped save many lives.
Shah said that only the youth of J&K can take it forward on the path of peace and development. No change is possible without the involvement of the youth.
“From 2004-14, 2,081 people were killed — 208 every year (on average). From 2014 till now, 30 people have been killed on an average per year. Terrorism has decreased. Stone-pelting is invisible and I want to assure you that we will deal sternly with those who want to disrupt peace in J&K. It is our commitment that no one will be able to stop the journey of development,” Shah said.
August 5, 2019 ushered in a new era in the Valley, he said.
“Terrorism, corruption, ‘parivarvaad’ (dynastic politics) were ended and the era of peace, development and prosperity started. The youth of J&K have to support it. This opportunity that you have, the development that you see… Today, 45,000 youths are saying that they have got an opportunity,” he added.
Shah said the curfew imposed in the wake of revocation of Article 370 was a “small hardship” for a long-term benefit. Had the curfew not been imposed, many parents would have attended the funeral of their sons.
“Who was saved because of the curfew or internet blockade? The youth of Kashmir. Today, the situation is under control and internet is on and there is no curfew,” he said.
Shah noted that the first condition for development is peace.
“About 40,000 people, including civilians and security forces, have lost their lives. Do we have to stop this or not? Are terrorism and development possible together? Can it happen? No, it can never happen,” he said.
“Who will take this (terrorism) out? The government? No. The government can only make attempts but the members of youth clubs have the responsibility to take terrorism out. You have to become the ambassadors of peace and development and spread this message across J&K that this is not the path to take our lives forward. This cannot be,” he said.
About 70 per cent of the population in Kashmir is below the age of 35 and if the youth are made ambassadors of peace and development, then no one will ever be able to create disrupt peace in the Valley, he added.
Shah said during his interaction with members of youth clubs, he recalled that about two-and-a-half years back, news about incidents of stone-pelting, terrorism and violence, used to come from Kashmir.
“…but now, in the same Kashmir, youths are talking about development, skill upgradation, employment and scholarships for their education.
“There has been a huge change and I assure you my young friends that no one will be able to stop this change. No matter how much power anyone uses, they will not be able to stop this journey of change,” he said.
The minister said that Kashmir gets help from the Centre as it has suffered a lot, but a day will come when it will contribute to the country’s development and will no longer remain a taker.
Creating such a J&K is the government’s goal, he said.
Shah said he was the president of the BJP in the past but started his career as a polling booth president.
“My family has no political background. I am not the son of a chief minister or even an MLA. Neither my mother nor my grand and great grandfathers were in politics. This is the beauty of democracy, that I could become the home minister of the country (despite starting) from such a small level,” he said.
“Could the youth of Kashmir think of becoming the country’s finance minister or home minister or president or the vice president before August 5, 2019?” he asked.
Without taking any names, Shah said 70 years of democracy in Kashmir have given only 87 MLAs, six MPs and three families.
“I do not want to take their names, everyone knows them. (PM Narendra) Modi gave 30,000 (panchayat) representatives in such less time and they are now using their rights to serve J&K. Those who are crying are crying because democracy has gone to a poor man’s house from the clutches of three families,” he said.
He said everyone keeps on saying that the youth of Kashmir need to be brought into the mainstream, “but I want to say that Kashmir is our mainland, it is India’s heart and every Indian wants to see prosperity, peace, development in Kashmir”.
“This is the campaign Modi ji has set out on and we have to carry it forward and that is why I am talking to the youth,” he said.
Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it
India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.
But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.
ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.