Amit Shah Launches Projects Worth ₹2,000-Cr For J&K

Highlighting the development push by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Centre in Jammu and Kashmir, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Wednesday said the region that was a terrorist hotspot earlier has now become a tourist hotspot due to the policies of the Modi government.

Shah, who has been on a 3-day visit to J-K, inaugurated and laid the foundation stone of 240 development projects of about ₹2,000 crores in Srinagar on Wednesday.

Shah also inaugurated and laid the foundation stones of several development projects in Baramulla, Jammu, and Kashmir, and addressed a public meeting in the region.

Several dignitaries including Jammu and Kashmir Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and Union Minister Jitendra Singh were also present on the occasion.

In his address, the Union Home Minister said that the hills of Pir Panjal and Chenab and this region of Kashmir Valley are among the most beautiful areas of the world. “The development ushered in Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Jammu and Kashmir is clearly reflected through the happy faces of the people in the region. He said that earlier, the three families who used to rule in the region hardly worked for the development of the region,” Shah said.

He said PM Modi has completed a huge task of ensuring that democracy reaches every village of Jammu and Kashmir. “Earlier, the meaning of democracy in Kashmir was restricted within the three families, 87 MLAs, and 6 MPs, but after August 5, 2019, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has connected 30,000 people with democracy by taking it to the level of Panch, Sarpanch, BDC, and Zilla Panchayat of the village.”

Earlier, due to corruption, he said the money of the poor was being misused, but now, PM Modi is ensuring that the money of the poor will reach the poor.

Shah said, “under the rule of three families, only Rs 15,000 crore investment came in Jammu and Kashmir in 70 years, but under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, an investment of Rs. 56,000 crores has come in just three years.”

“Earlier the region was a terrorist hotspot but now it has become a tourist hotspot. Earlier, a maximum of six lakh tourists used to visit the Kashmir Valley every year, whereas this year alone till now, 22 lakh tourists have visited the region, giving employment to thousands of youth, and this process will be further strengthened,” he said.

Shah said that earlier stones and guns were given in the hands of the youth of the Valley, but now Prime Minister Narendra Modi has replaced them with mobiles and laptops and provided employment to the youth by setting up industries in the region. The Union Home Minister said that terrorism has not led to any good in the world. “From 1990 till today, 42,000 people of Jammu and Kashmir have succumbed to terrorism. Now terrorism is slowly being weeded out,” he said.

Shah said that now electricity has reached every village in Kashmir and Prime Minister Modi has ensured complete treatment up to Rs 5 lakh free of cost. He said that 77 lakh people have been given health cards so that they do not have to spend a single penny for their treatment.

Union Home Minister said that he wants to reach out to the Gujjars, Bakarwals and Paharis of Baramulla, and the youth of Kashmir. He said that the people of Kashmir should think with an open mind that no good was ever done by the people who spread terror in the region, and Kashmir should now move forward with all the States of the country.

Shah said that we should not go down the path of terrorism but that of development.

The Minister said that the expressway from Nangal to Baramulla and from Baramulla to Uri has been built at a cost of Rs 850 crore. A 43-km road has been built connecting Baramulla to Gulmarg at a cost of Rs 85 crore to help tourists traveling from Gulmarg to Baramulla. He said that over one lakh families are being brought under the ambit of education through a scheme of Rs 847 crore. Two stadiums have been built in 402 panchayats of Jammu and Kashmir, along with one playground in each panchayat. Additionally, two indoor stadiums are also being built at a cost of Rs 10 crore.

Shah said that in the month of September this year, 13 lakh tourists visited Gulmarg. He said that the installation of power plants and irrigation projects worth thousands of crores of Rupees will bring prosperity to the valley of Kashmir. In order to improve the rail network, work on rail links from Udhampur to Baramulla has been initiated. Under the Pradhan Mantri Sadak Yojana, 119 new roads worth Rs 3,167 crore have been built.

He appealed to the people to join the mainstream of the country and empower the process of development and move forward. (ANI)

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Kashmir is Incomplete Without Kashmiri Pandits

‘Kashmir Will Never Be The Same Without Pandits’

Khushboo Mattoo, displaced from Kashmir in 1990, talks about the hope that abrogation of Article 370 gives to those Kashmiri Pandits who wish to return to their homeland

I can still recall the night of January 19, 1990 when my family, and thousands of other Kashmiri Pandits, packed whatever little we could carry and left for a safe roof. Our lives were at stake. Pandits were being threatened, a lot of them kidnapped and warned to leave the Valley or face consequences. Distraught families left in buses, trucks and Tata Sumos, to live in shanty camps of Jammu and beyond.

Since then, it has been a journey of struggle and survival. A community which was 100 percent literate, never imagined that they would be left in the lurch at one unholy stroke of midnight. The exodus also initiated the process of Islamization of Kashmir. Probably, that was the plan. Thus, as a Kashmiri Pandit, all I want is that my community should be able to return to their homeland and rebuild our lives without a shred of fear. Kashmir is incomplete without Kashmiri Pandits.

The abrogation of Article 370 and 35A brought hope for people throughout the country and particularly to Pandits. The regressive Article debarred women who were domiciles of J&K but got married outside the state from getting property rights. The West Pakistani refugees or the Valmikis who were staying in the state for decades could not be called as domiciles of J&K. But now that problem is resolved too.

No one can compensate Pandits fully for their loss. What the government can do is to make the process of rehabilitation comfortable for Pandits, both in terms of jobs and property. Maybe if we get on a rapid pace of development, the youth in our families will be able to find jobs in Kashmir. The common man of Jammu-Kashmir wants to see food on his plate and a corruption-free administration. It appears to me that the Centre has set the ball rolling.

Mattoo visited the Valley with her husband in Autumn 2020

Having said that, I know the return of Pandits to Kashmir is not easy. Returning to a homogenous Valley where 28- or 30-year-olds have never seen a Hindu in person and where the term secular is alien to public life – will be a challenge. Pandits are understandably afraid to return. Wahan darr kar rahne me kya fayda (What is the point in living under perpetual fear)? We hear news of sarpanchs, political leaders being killed every day. Pandit families will be easy targets. Who would want to return in this environment? There must be social acceptability as well. The process of reverse migration has to be gradual and the Valley citizens have to be welcoming.

In the last 30 years, Kashmir has become a milch cow. Every government and political party has milked it to their benefit. They are clueless about our struggle and how we channelised our anger, with hard work and our learning, to better our lives instead of picking up the gun. This doesn’t make us weak; it makes us stronger. The guns will fall silent, not the pen.

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There are people who say that by coming out of a violent Valley, Pandits got better job opportunities and quality of life. I want to tell them that Pandits lost more than they gained. Nobody is happy when one gets uprooted from their homeland. They all remember life back there so vividly. I speak to a lot of Pandits on a daily basis and half of the time we are only talking about Kashmir. Whether a Kashmiri Pandit is staying in America or Australia, he knows everything about Kashmir. He knows when it snows in Kashmir. He celebrates ‘Nausheen’, the first snowfall of the season year after year.

Whenever I get a chance I go to Kashmir, the first thing that strikes me is that everyone is talking in my mother-tongue. It is like homecoming, connecting with the land. This cannot happen anywhere else. A lot of my friends in Kashmir often invite us but it hurts to be treated as a guest on your own land. Who knows if we were in Kashmir, how prosperous it would have been, how healthier our families would have been. Nobody can reverse the tragedy.

I have travelled extensively in the Valley in the past five years. I would like to tell the young Pandits (or youth of any community) to visit the place themselves to know what it is like to be in Kashmir. It is not as bad as one may have imagined. The hospitality and ambience are heartening. I am not saying they should get involved politically but they should at least know about their heritage and culture. It is very important.

– As told to Mamta Sharma