Prime Minister Narendra Modi has finally broken his silence over Kashmir.
In his first public address on the state, which has been on the boil since the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on 8 July, Modi invoked his predecessor Atal Vihari Vajpayee's Kashmir policy to signal the way ahead.
According to a report in The Indian Express, speaking at a rally in Alirajpur in Madhya Pradesh, Modi called Kashmir "heaven on earth" and a place that is "loved by every Indian", except for a "handful of misguided people" who are "hurting its great tradition".
"When Atal Bihari Vajpayee was Prime Minister, he had adopted the path of insaniyat, jamhooriyat, Kashmiriyat, and we walk the same path," he said. "I want to tell my brothers and sisters in Kashmir that the strength our freedom fighters gave this country, they gave the same strength to Kashmir. The freedom every Indian enjoys, that freedom is also enjoyed by every Kashmiri," he added.
Modi claimed that "stones are being handed" to "innocent children, youths who should be holding laptops, volleyballs, cricket bats, books... who ought to be playing in parks, carrying dreams". He said "this will help the politics of some" but worried about the effect this tactic will have on "innocent children".
The PM's remarks come a day after the chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti, urged him to apply salve to the "wounds" of the people of her state by reviving Vajpayee's dialogue process. But the crisis of governance in the valley is such that sweeping statements and promises are not going to be of much help. "The PM has made a general statement. What count are the specifics," former deputy chief minister Muzaffar Baig told The Hindustan Times.
The Kashmir Reader said Modi's speech is unlikely to please even Mufti, who had called for "bold and tangible" steps to resolving the impasse in the state. With over 50 people dead in the unrest, hundreds injured and maimed by pellet gun firing or going missing, the resistance has reacted strongly to Modi's words.
Even the Supreme Court, during a hearing of a case, expressed concern over the festering discontent and mayhem in Kashmir. "There must be a humane approach towards the problem and it is now missing," said a bench of the apex court comprising Justices P.C. Ghose and Amitava Roy. "People should be treated with love and affection but it is lacking at present and it must be ensured by the government."
The court made this observation while hearing a plea of the state seeking stay of contempt proceedings initiated by a local court against a senior superintendent of police in Srinagar for not registering a first information report against a deputy superintendent of police who had allegedly shot down a 22-year old youth, Shabir Ahmad Mir, by barging into his home on 10 July.
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