Modi Addresses Nation: 'Jammu and Kashmir Will Now See Economic Development and Integration'

Industry, including tech and films, would now come to the Union Territories, the prime minister claimed

On Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the nation for the first time since his government announced that it would be reading down Article 370, which took away the special status of Jammu and Kashmir, and bifurcated the state into two Union Territories. Without referring to the communications blackout, the protests or the Section 144 clampdown in the region, Modi made a plea for development and better governance in the Union Territories, indicating a de-facto explanation for the Centre’s twin decisions.

The Union Territories would be governed directly by the Centre, which would bring development, including, he said, the film industry which could use Jammu and Kashmir for shooting movies.

Modi began his speech with a clear focus on Article 370. He congratulated his “brothers and sisters” – the residents of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. “Article 370 had been keeping Jammu and Kashmir from the path of development. People were not able to say what good this article and Article 35A were doing to the state,” he said.

As many as 42,000 people died as a result of the this provision, the prime minister said, adding that it had become little more than a weapon in the hands of Pakistan.

Whenever a law is brought, there is strife, he said. “But no one could have imagined that a law could be brought for the entire nation. The previous government did not realise that the laws it was bringing could be implemented in Jammu and Kashmir too,” Modi said.

He then went on to give several examples of how the rest of India’s children, girls and safai karmacharis enjoy laws implemented countrywide, but people in Jammu and Kashmir do not. Among other examples of markers of equality he highlighted were the reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in elections.

Modi said that the Centre would offer benefits of house rent allowance, children’s education allowance, health schemes, and so on to government workers and police personnel of Jammu and Kashmir. He gave examples of how jobs will be created, vacancies filled and industries brought to the region now.

From AIIMS, IITs to railways, the region would be in for a facelift, the prime minister said. This, he stressed, was a realisation the Centre came to after allowing governor’s rule in the state in the past few months.

Modi also talked of the electoral culture in the Valley, and said wrongs had been done to people in the state through a lack of governance. He said people in Jammu and Kashmir would now be able to elect their own chief ministers and electors. “They will come from you,” he said, adding that if the situation is found to be conducive, then the Centre may even remove the Union Territory from under its control in due course.

“Ladakh, however, will remain under the Centre,” he said.

Also read: The Constitution is Allowing the Continued Discrimination of Valmikis in J&K

Modi also said he wished that the people of the region will begin to hope anew. “I have full belief that they will aim for better lives for themselves,” he said, adding that the system had, until now, not given youth in the state an opportunity to take up leadership posts.

Modi spoke for how the film industry and technology had much to contribute to employment of Jammu and Kashmir youths. He touched upon various sectors which could bring about economic development, including sports, for the young of Kashmir.

The prime minister listed delicacies and geographically-specific fauna from the region, which he said, “should be shared with the world.” Through the process, Modi stressed, farming and food processing would be amped.

Modi devoted several minutes to Ladakh in particular, making the case for awaited overall development in the region.

Also read: In Locking Kashmiris Up While Changing Their Lives, Modi Mirrored Indira’s 1983 Assam Move

He then came to criticisms his government has received over the decision. “I respect the decisions. It is the Centre’s responsibility to answer criticisms. I request everyone to help the government and country in ensuring Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh in going forward,” he said.

Modi seemed to warn against politicking in the matter, and said he was not concerned with who voted for or against the motion to read down Article 370 in the parliament.

“I assure people in Jammu and Kashmir that slowly, slowly, the situation will return to normal,” he said.

He also wished people on the occasion of Eid. “The government is keen on ensuring that celebrations of Eid are not hampered in the region,” he added, congratulating security forces and government officials on “the excellent work they are doing” in maintaining peace in the region.

Listing another example of the region’s overall integration with the rest of India, Modi listed out the names of martyrs from Jammu and Kashmir who had been decorated with bravery awards given out by the Centre.

At around 2:30 pm, the prime minister’s office tweeted that the address would be at 8 pm. Speculation had been rife as to what Modi could speak about.

Most rumours on social media centred around the fact that the time was ripe for the prime minister to make a speech on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. The government has been keen to propagate the idea that the situation is peaceful in the region since Monday’s decision to water down Article 370 and bifurcate the state into two was announced.

Minutes before the prime minister began his address, ANI reported that around 70 “terrorists and hardcore pro-Pakistan separatists from Kashmir valley have been shifted to Agra in a special plane provided by the Indian Air Force.”

Protests have continued against the Centre’s decision.

The prime minister, on August 6, spoke in great praise of Union home minister Amit Shah’s speech at the parliament, during the course of which he presented the proposal for the scrapping of Article 370.