Srinagar: Home Minister Rajnath Singh arrived in Kashmir on Tuesday and immediately appealed for participation in elections, saying that democracy is the only route through which Jammu & Kashmir’s myriad complexities can be resolved and solutions to many of its problems found.
Singh’s pitch for elections was made within a week after urban local body polls in Kashmir saw an abysmal turnout of voters – less than 6 percent – amid calls for election boycott by both pro-freedom groups and militant outfits. Elections to panchayats in rural areas are now slated for next month.
Talking to reporters at the Nehru Guest House in the lap of Zabarwan hills in Srinagar, Singh said that the biggest of problems can be solved through democracy. Appealing to all political parties to participate in panchayat elections, he exuded confidence that even the NC and PDP, which boycotted the urban local body polls, will take part in the panchayat elections.
‘Those who don’t believe in democracy can’t be well-wishers of people’
‘We have no reservation in talking to anyone, but Pakistan is sponsoring and promoting terrorism’
‘I congratulate the state government for conducting fair and transparent urban local body elections’
‘Indian home ministry will recruit 11,000 youths from J&K’
‘Employment to another 2.5 lakh youths in Government of Indiasponsored schemes’
‘Rs 350 crore for rejuvenating Dal Lake’
‘Ex-gratia relief of Rs 5 lakh for each affected family (of those killed in Kulgam blast)’
“I congratulate the state government for conducting fair and transparent urban local body elections. During the election no incident of violence occurred,” he said and urged people of Kashmir to participate in the “festival of democracy”.
“Those who don’t believe in democracy can’t be well-wishers of people. Those who consider themselves as public representatives should not oppose panchayat elections,” he said.
Singh said that during the four months of Governor’s Rule, the situation in Kashmir had considerably improved. He cited decline in stone-throwing protests and decline in recruitment of youngsters into militancy as evidence of this.
Replying to a query about Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s statement that ties between the two countries can improve after the 2019 parliamentary elections in India, Singh said that the Narendra Modi government has no reservations in talking with Pakistan even now.
“We have no reservation in talking to anyone, but Pakistan is sponsoring and promoting terrorism, which it should stop,” he said, adding, “Terror and talks can’t go together.”
He iterated that the Modi-led government is “honestly” ready for dialogue with anyone willing to talk. “The government can’t shirk from talking,” he said.
Citing India’s fast-growing economy as a reason for hostility, he said, “Many powers are not happy with it.”
“To stop this growth they are resorting to terrorism,” Singh said. “But their designs won’t succeed, in any way.”
Singh was accompanied at the presser by Home Secretary Rajeev Gauba, Advisor to J&K Governor, K Vijay Kumar, and J&K Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam.
Responding to a query on when elections to the state assembly will be held, he said, “Assembly elections will happen, sooner or later.”
Asked about the Modi government’s stand on Article 35A, which guarantees special privileges to J&K and is being challenged in the Supreme Court, Singh said that the central government has not made any move to fiddle with it. He described the controversy over Article 35A as a “non-issue”.
The home minister said that the government of India was working on improving the situation in Kashmir. He announced that the Indian home ministry will recruit 11,000 youths from J&K and provide employment to another 2.5 lakh youths in Government of India-sponsored schemes.
Announcing Rs 350 crore for rejuvenating the Dal Lake, Singh said that the lake is not just the “identity” of Srinagar but also of India.
“Many things will change after the change in Dal Lake,” he said.
Singh admitted that there was corruption in Jammu and Kashmir. He said the government will bring an action plan to wipe out this “disease”.
Expressing heartfelt condolences to the families of seven civilians who were killed in a blast at Kulgam, Singh announced Rs 5 lakh each to their next of kin.
“The price of a life cannot be set in monetary terms but, still, I announce ex-gratia relief of Rs 5 lakh for each affected family,” he said, describing the incident as “unfortunate”.
He also appealed to people to not go near gunfight sites.