Prime Minister Narendra Modi has hit back at critics of his government’s decision to revoke the autonomy of Kashmir, saying its special status had only led to terrorism and separatism.
The move will allow Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh to play a meaningful role in India’s development, Mr Modi said on Thursday (Aug 15) while addressing the nation on its 73rd Independence Day.
Stripping the disputed Kashmir region of its statehood and special constitutional provisions has helped unify the country, Mr Modi said, adding that Kashmir’s former status led to “corruption” and was unjust for women.
Mr Modi spoke in an Independence Day address from India’s Mughal-era Red Fort in New Delhi as an unprecedented security lockdown kept people in Indian-administered Kashmir indoors for an 11th day.
The lockdown and a near-complete communications blackout affecting about four million residents of the Kashmir Valley have been in place since Aug 4, just before a presidential order to subsume the Muslim-majority region into India’s federal government by downgrading it from a state to a union territory.
A new law allows anyone to buy land there.
Mr Modi faces a raft of serious challenges in his second term in government. He needs to bring back normalcy in the restive Kashmir region, create jobs for aspiring youth, reduce hardship among millions of impoverished farmers, continue pushing welfare programmes for the poor, and revive India’s slowing economy.
In the general election that finished in May, Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party secured a landslide victory, making him the country’s first premier to be re-elected with a majority since 1984.