“There won’t be any dearth of money. Not only our treasury, but our heart also beats for you”, Modi said while addressing a rally at the Sher-e- Kashmir Cricket Stadium in Sonawar on Friday.
Workers from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), migrant labourers from other parts of India and casual employees of the Jammu and Kashmir government formed the bulk of the audience for what was touted as a ‘public rally’ by Modi.
A significant number of labourers, hailing from Bihar, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, were seen at the stadium. As their presence drew the attention of the media, PDP workers pushed them to the stadium’s back rows.
The enthusiastic PDP workers also shouted slogans hailing Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and party president Mehbooba Mufti.
No WhatsApp, mobile internet
Earlier, mobile internet services in the Kashmir Valley were blocked in the morning as a “precautionary measure” in view of the Prime Minister’s scheduled rally. With Hurriyat leaders having given a call for a “million person” march against Modi, the authorities feared the internet might be used to mobilise people even though a large number of separatist leaders had already been placed under house arrest.
“Mobile internet services have been temporarily discontinued in the Valley in the wake of the PM’s visit,” officials said.
The officials said all service providers had been directed to disconnect mobile internet services from 10 am till the Prime Minister leaves the Valley.
However, broadband services on BSNL were working.
‘Three mantras of Atalji’
Recalling the words of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee — “Kashmiriyat, Jamhooriyat aur Insaniyat’ (social consciousness and cultural values of the Kashmiri people, democracy, and humanity) – Modi said, “I will like to follow these three mantras which are the pillars of development of Kashmir”.
“I don’t need advice or analysis from anyone in this world on Kashmir. The three mantras of Atalji will be helpful in moving forward. Kashmiriyat ke bina Hindustan adhura hai. (Without Kashmiriyat, India is incomplete). Sufi tradition has emerged from this land and this tradition has taught us oneness and strength of unity,” he said.
In his second ‘public rally’ in Kashmir after becoming Prime Minister, Modi announced the much-awaited package – meant for rehabilitation of the state after the devastating 2014 floods – and said that this is not a full stop as “our hearts are also open for you”.
“It’s my heart-felt desire that this money will be helpful in turning your fate. This money should be used for converting the state into a new Jammu and Kashmir which is a modern, prosperous and progressive state.
“This is not a full stop. This Rs 80,000 crore is not a full stop. It’s rather a beginning… Dilli ka khazana aap ke liye hai, Dilli ka khazana hi nahi, dil bhi aap ke liye hazir hai (Delhi’s treasury is for you. Not only Delhi’s treasury, but our heart also beats for you),” said Modi, who was flanked by Sayeed, Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari and Jitendra Singh, and Mehbooba Mufti.
“The dreams of two generations have been lost in last two decades. But I am an optimist and would like to move ahead and convert Jammu and Kashmir into a modern and developed state,” he said addressing the rally at the Sher-e-Kashmir cricket stadium.
The Prime Minister said that the youth of the state needed employment and assured the Mufti Sayeed-led PDP-BJP alliance that the Centre was standing rock solid behind it in its endeavour to restore normalcy in the state.
“We may touch any heights in economy and technology. And no matter how much the life changes, we may even build a castle in the air, but it is only our soul that inspires us to respect the dignity of self and others,” he said.
Modi said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have shown their faith in democracy (jamhooriyat).
“There was massive participation in Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. Today Mufti Sahib is talking about empowering panchayats. This is the democracy that Atalji wanted and dreamt of. I salute you,” he added.
The Prime Minister said India is incomplete without Kashmiriyat which is the “shaan, baan, aan” (pride and glory) of India.
Employment the key
He said he has a development sketch in his mind for Jammu and Kashmir based on the interactions with the leaders of the state including the Chief Minister and his deputy Nirmal Singh.
“The development process has to be implemented within a set timeframe. We want to help the farmers, the traders and people whose houses were damaged by the floods last year. We want to bring out every family from their problems. Delhi will work shoulder to shoulder with the state government in this regard,” he said.
Modi said unemployment was the biggest challenge facing the state and a solution to this problem will resolve every other problem in the state.
He said the focus of the government is on reviving tourism and promoting handicrafts and other cash crops like apple and saffron of the state.
“More than 1.75 crore Indians travel abroad for tourism. Can we make efforts to get only 5 per cent of this number to Kashmir, which will change the tourism scenario and bring back the old days of peace and tranquility,” he said.
The Prime Minister said the state had potential for adventure tourism, eco tourism and leisure tourism to attract visitors from across the world.
Giving an example of harnessing the local expertise, Modi said cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar, Yuvraj Singh, Virender Sehwag and Dhoni might have hit many sixes but the bats they used were made from the willow of Kashmir.
“This is strength which we need to harness. We want a development model which provides livelihood opportunities to the youth,” he said.
Modi also laid emphasis on use of information and digital technology for improving the lot of the people.
“We have to explore how to use the I-way, the information way, and digital network to connect the people of Kashmir. As part of skill development, we have to look at how to improve the quality of handicrafts and their designs too, besides finding global markets for these products,” he added.
Modi said there was no reason that Kashmir cannot emerge from its troubled past as “I believe that crisis, however deep it might be, can be over come with determination”.
“Kashmir has seen a lot of crisis over the past 20 years. Dreams of two generations have been shattered. I have set out to make Kashmir paradise on earth again, to make it prosperous. I have belief in Mufti Sahib…. I have belief in you. Otherwise, we would not see such an atmosphere (at the rally),” he added.
Turning his focus on infrastructure development, the Prime Minister said his government wants to develop the sector.
“Today it takes nine to 11 hours to travel from Jammu to Srinagar, which can put off the tourists. We are spending Rs 34,000 crore on Jammu-Srinagar road which will reduce the travel time significantly as the distance will be less by 70 kilometres due to construction of tunnels,” he said.
He said this project will be completed within two and half years.
On the human resources, he said the youth of state have excelled in the competitive exams like IAS, IPS, IIT and IIM over the past few years which is indicative of the strength of the state.
“I have recognised this talent of Kashmir and when I recognise the talent, I do everything that is needed to be done,” he said.
The Prime Minister also pitched for resumption of international cricket in Kashmir saying if a player like Parvez Rasool is making progress, then international matches should also return.
“It has been 30 years since an international match was played here,” he said referring to the Sher-e-Kashmir Cricket stadium, where the last one day international was played between India and Australia in 1986.