New Delhi, August 8 (Hindustan Times): The decision to abolish Art 370 giving special rights to Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir (J and K) was driven by the government’s commitment to developing the region and would not only improve its present but also secure its future, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in a special address to the nation on Thursday.
The government has reasoned that the contentious articles 370 and 35A of the constitution were behind most of the ills of the state — from corruption and lack of development to political violence and terrorism.
“A new era has begun for Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh,” the Prime Minister said, underscoring that Article 370 and Article 35A had not given J&K anything other than separatism, terrorism, dynastic policies and systematic corruption.
Modi’s radio address is seen as part of a comprehensive outreach programme to to ally apprehensions of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and establish to them that twin decisions would create more opportunities for them.
Article 370 has been an emotive issue in J&K, linked closely to perceptions about Kashmir’s unique identity. But it was hurting the State and no one was even talking about it, PM Modi regretted.
“Surprisingly, no one could tell you what was the benefit of Article 370 to the people of Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
Modi’s address attempted to contrast this point with the many benefits that would reach Jammu and Kashmir, starting from investments by the private sector, expansion of scholarships for students and more job opportunities for the youth in security forces.
He also promised that Jammu and Kashmir would remain a Union Territory only for a very short duration and will get back its statehood status.
“This (UT status) is a well-thought out decision and it is important to understand why,” Modi said.
The Prime Minister attributed the decision to centrally administer Jammu and Kashmir from Delhi to the positive impact that had been felt in the State over the last year when the State was brought under Central rule.
Ever since Governor’s rule was imposed, the state administration has been in direct touch with the Centre. “Because of this, good governance and development has reached people. Schemes that had only remained on paper were being implemented on the ground…. There was a new work culture in the administration,” the Prime Minister said.
He acknowledged that not everyone was on board with his decisions.
“I respect their opposition… It is essential in a democracy,” he said, seemingly optimistic that the critics too would see reason.
Modi also alluded to the restrictions that were in place in part of Jammu and Kashmir, arguing that the government had to take certain precautionary steps.
The government clamped a communications blackout before the government moved on Monday to nullify Article 370. The government divided the State into two Union Territories – Jammu and Kashmir with a legislative assembly, and Ladakh without one.
The government insists that the ground situation remains peaceful even as it has refused to clarify when the restrictions will be lifted.
The restrictions have triggered concerns if the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley would be able to celebrate Eid over the next few days. He wished them and promised that things will slowly return to normal.
The government is keen to see that people do not face any trouble…. It is also facilitating Kashmiris outside, who want to return to the valley for the festival, to come back,” Modi said, vowing to protect J&K which he described as the country’s “crown”.