Breaking his silence for the first time after scrapping Article 370 and 35-A and bifurcating the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday in his address to the nation said, “A new era has begun for Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh”.
Emphasizing that Article 370 and Article 35A had not given J&K anything other than separatism, terrorism, dynastic policies and systematic corruption Prime Minister said this was a step taken after a lot of thought.
Questioning the wisdom of those who had Article 370 PM Modi said, no one could tell what was the benefit of Article 370 to the people of Jammu and Kashmir”.
Reaching out to the people of the state and responding to those who have been questioning the decision to grant UT status to Jammu and Kashmir, PM said, “I don’t think there will be a need to keep Jammu and Kashmir as a Union Territory for long, though Union Territory status will be retained for Ladakh”.
In his 39- minute long speech in Hindi, PM announced, “We want elections to be held. People will soon get a chance to choose their elected representatives. They will choose their MLAs, their ministers, and their Chief Minister,” he added.
Prime Minister said the historic decision on Jammu and Kashmir was driven by the government’s commitment to developing the region and would not only improve its present but also secure its future.
He said, 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 have reached people. Schemes that had only remained on paper were being implemented on the ground. There was a new work culture in the administration,” he said.
Article 370 an emotive issue?
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 said.
Questioning the wisdom of those who had inserted Article 370 PM Modi said, no one could tell what was the benefit of Article 370 to the people of Jammu and Kashmir”.
Defending the decision to scrap Article 370, Modi also counted numerous 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.
The prime minister acknowledged that not everyone was on board with its decisions. “I respect their opposition. It is essential in a democracy,” he said, seemingly optimistic that the critics too would see reason.
Indian laws — which protect the rights of a billion people — will now be available to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, which had its own penal code – the Ranbir Penal Code – as part of its special status.
“1.5 crore people never benefitted from the country’s laws,” he said. “The right to education never reached Jammu and Kashmir’s children, sanitation workers never got benefits, strong laws to prevent atrocities on Dalits weren’t applicable, laws protecting the rights of minorities were skipped, labor laws never reached its people,” he said.
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.