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Will talk to Kashmiri youth, not Pakistan: Home minister

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Says not a single Kashmiri has lost his land after abrogation of Article 370

Srinagar: Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday said the government would rather hold talks with the youth and “brothers and sisters” of the Valley than Pakistan as suggested by National Conference president Farooq Abdullah.

He also said the only intention behind repealing Article 370 was to put Kashmir and Jammu on the path of development, and people will see the “fruits of our efforts by 2024”.

The Home minister, who arrived in Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday for his first visit since the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019, remotely inaugurated several development projects and laid the foundation stone of some.

Before beginning his 38-minute-long speech at a function here, the Home minister got the bullet-proof glass shield for the speaker removed.

Later, he told the audience that he likes to have a “mann ki baat” (talk straight from his heart) with the people.

“I was cursed and criticised bitterly and today, I wish to talk to you with an open heart without security and without any bullet-proof glass. And, here I am in front of you,” Shah said while speaking at a heavily guarded Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC).

“Friends, today I saw the newspapers where Farooq (Abdullah) Saheb has suggested to me that the government should engage in talks with Pakistan. Well, he is a seasoned politician, who has been the chief minister of (erstwhile) state, and this is his suggestion, but I would like to tell Farooq Saheb that if talks are to be held, I would like to hold it with brothers and sisters of the Kashmir Valley and the youth of the Kashmir Valley,” the Home minister said.

On the abrogation of Article 370, he said repealing it had only one ‘pakeeza’ (pious) intention that is to put Kashmir, Jammu and newly created Union Territory of Ladakh on the path of development.

“You will see the fruits of our efforts by 2024,” Shah, who donned a traditional Kashmiri pheran, said.

Urging people to not fall prey to the deception by some people for the sake of their political advantage, Shah said “some vested interests spread lies and incite the feelings of the people of Kashmir on the name of abrogation of Article 370. They tried to instill the feeling of insecurity amongst Kashmir people by creating fear of losing their land post Article 370.

“I want to ask the PRI representatives, and the people present here, has any Kashmiri lost his land after abrogation of Article 370?  Not a single Kashmiri has lost his or her land after abrogation of Article 370. The big ‘No’ from the crowd is a proof that the central government ushered a new era of development in the J&K.”

The minister said, “The next time they (local politicians) mislead you about land being snatched after repeal of Article 370, tell them how much land has been taken away in your village or area. No land has been snatched in the two years since August 2019.”

The article, which granted special status to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, was abrogated in August 2019 and the state was bifurcated into union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

Shah inaugurated a 500-bed Pediatrics hospital at Bemina, completed at a cost of Rs 115 crore, laid the foundation stone for the Handwara Medical College, a Rs 46-crore steel girder bridge over the Ferozepur Nallah in Baramulla district and road projects worth Rs 4,000 crore, among others, an official press release informed.

The Home minister, who is on his Jammu and Kashmir visit’s third day, said that those who advocate talks with Islamabad and separatists “should be asked what has Pakistan done in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)”.

“Compare the development between this side and PoK. Do they have electricity, roads, healthcare and toilets for women? There is nothing (on the other side). You (Kashmiris) have the same rights as any other Indian does,” he said.

Without naming Congress, National Conference and Peoples’ Democratic Party, he said while only three medical colleges were set up by the “three families which have ruled Jammu and Kashmir”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has ensured seven new medical colleges and these are coming up.

“Earlier, 500 youths could become doctors … now 2,000 youths can become doctors from these new medical colleges. Nobody will need to go to Pakistan to study medicine,” he said.

Shah said schemes and plans of the Modi government will ensure that J&K is the most developed province of the country.

He sought the cooperation of the people to realise this dream. “It is only the youth of J&K who can work towards achieving this goal,” he said.

Asserting that the government is aiming to wipe out terrorism and put an end to civilian killings in J&K, Shah said nobody will be allowed to disrupt peace and development in the Union Territory, which has a special place in Prime Minister Modi’s heart.

Defending the curbs on internet services and imposition of curfew in the aftermath of abrogation of Article 370, he said “I am often asked by some people why curfew was imposed in Kashmir and why the internet was snapped. Let me answer today. This was done to protect and save the lives of our youth. We didn’t want vested interests and anti-peace elements to exploit the situation and push our youth on roads to face bullets. This step was taken to save the lives of Kashmiri youth.”

Shah said it not been done, “some people would have misled the masses. Who would have been killed? The Kashmiri youth. We know how heavy the coffin of a young son is for an old man!”

He said 40,000 people have been killed in Kashmir in violence and it should stop now.

“This many people do not die even in wars. We have to come back and take Kashmir to new heights of development,” he said.

The minister said Rs 12,000 crore worth of investment has already come to the Union Territory and the government aims at a total of Rs 51,000 crore by the end of 2022 to provide five lakh jobs to the local youth.

Shah said “three families” are answerable to the people for their failure to develop J&K over the past seven decades.

“The new phase of development under the leadership of Modi has started in J&K but attempts are being made by inimical elements to create hurdles. I have come here to assure you that nobody will be able to create a hurdle and disrupt peace and development,” he said.

He said a new phase of development has started and this cannot be stopped.

Shah said “five lakh jobs are being created in Jammu and Kashmir, while 20,000 people have been provided government jobs in the past two years”.

“The three families used to say who will come and invest in J&K… in just six months after announcing a new industrial policy, we have got an investment of Rs 7,000 crore in Jammu and Rs 6,000 crore in Kashmir and are looking forward to an investment of Rs 50,000 crore by 2022-end,” he said.

Targeting the “three families”, he said they were asking what the government is going to give to Jammu and Kashmir.

“We have a long list of what we have given to J&K and the people know it very well but the people are demanding an answer from them as to what they have given to J&K despite ruling the erstwhile state for the past seven decades. Have you thought of anyone else other than your own family members?” Shah asked.

He said that unlike previous regimes, now jobs are only given to those only who deserve it. “Time is over now when people of J&K would have to pay money for jobs. Nepotism and Corruption is over,” he said.

Shah said those questioning him should answer as to why youth were deprived of becoming Sarpanchs and Panchs. “There was a chief minister who would leave people suffering and spend six months in London every year. Now we have young Sarpanchs, Panchs and other representatives, who can become MPs, MLAs and also the chief minister,” he said, adding that “J&K will have a CM who will stay with people in districts.”

He said that militancy is on a decline in J&K and efforts to replace guns with pens have borne fruit. “These parties would demand to talk to Pakistan and Hurriyat. This way, they choked Kashmir’s economy only to enjoy power. Today, we have succeeded in replacing guns with pens even in militancy hotbed of Pulwama besides other districts of Kashmir,” Shah said.

Shah visits Kheer Bhawani temple

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday offered prayers at the revered temple of Kheer Bhawani in Ganderbal district of central Kashmir, and said the shrine has divine power which can be felt only after visiting it.

The Home minister visited the temple complex nestled among chinars in Tullamulla area of the central Kashmir district early Monday morning, officials said.

Donning a traditional Kashmiri pheran, Shah was accompanied to the temple by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha.

Shah offered prayers at the temple of Mata Ragnya Devi and performed puja, the officials said.

Taking to Twitter, Shah said he had the honour of visiting the major centre of faith of the Kashmiri Pandit community which inspires the nation.

“This holy place has divine power that can be felt only by visiting it,” Shah wrote in Kashmiri language using Devanagari script.

The shrine holds a special place among the Kashmiri Pandit community and the colour of water of the springs of the shrine area is believed to foretell how the coming year would be. It has been reported that whenever the water has turned reddish, bad times have fallen on Kashmir.

The Union Home minister arrived in Kashmir on Saturday on a three-day visit which will culminate on Monday.

Immediately after his arrival on Saturday, he visited the family of slain police officer Parvaiz Ahmad, who was killed by militants in June this year.

Later that day, Shah reviewed the security scenario at a meeting held at Raj Bhawan here.

He also held an interaction with the members of the newly set-up youth clubs in the Valley later that evening at SKICC.

On Sunday Shah visited Jammu where he also addressed a public rally.

‘Sufism part of India’s rich cultural heritage’

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday said Sufism was a part of India’s rich cultural heritage.

“Kashmir has been since beginning the focal point of India’s rich heritage. Sufi culture is also part of that richness which is embodiment of peace and liberalism,” he tweeted in Hindi.

“Today, I met Sufi saints in Srinagar and held a detailed discussion for re-establishing peace and coexistence in Kashmir,” he added.

Shah inaugurates Houseboat Festival in Srinagar

Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday inaugurated a Houseboat Festival organised by the Department of Tourism at the Dal Lake here, officials said.

The minister also witnessed a musical fountain and laser show, that, he said, was “a mesmerising experience”.

The Houseboat Festival has been organised as part of the ‘Iconic Week’ festival celebrating the spirit of Jammu and Kashmir, the officials said.

Shah was accompanied by Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh.

Later, Shah took to Twitter to share pictures of the event.

“It was a mesmerising experience to watch the musical fountain and laser show at Srinagar’s iconic Dal Lake. Also inaugurated the ‘Houseboat Festival’ organised by the J&K Tourism,” Shah said in a tweet.

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