Jammu and Kashmir will not remain a Union Territory for long, Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured in his address to the nation this evening on the government’s move to end special powers to the state and splitting it into two union territories. PM Modi also assured that the situation in the state would return to normal soon.
“This was a step taken after a lot of thought… 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,” PM Modi said in a 38-minute speech. The reason, he indicated, was that Central rule over the last year has been beneficial to the state and led to good governance.
“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.
“Some people are opposed to the government move, I respect their opposition, it is essential in a democracy. The Centre is responding to them and is working to improve things. I urge them to act in the nation’s interest and help the government and the nation in creating a new environment in the region,” he said.
Earlier in parliament, Union Minister Amit Shah had also said that Jammu and Kashmir will only be a Union Territory “for the time being”. PM Modi said Central rule has been beneficial and led to good governance in Jammu and Kashmir.
The government’s decision can only bring about positive changes in the lives of the common man, the Prime Minister said. It would mean protection of Indian laws, industrialisation, a boost in tourism and employment. Politically, not much will change, he assured.
Article 370, from which Jammu and Kashmir drew its special status, also gave the people “nepotism, terrorism and separatism and nothing else, he said, pointing out that over the last three decades, more than “42,000 innocents have been killed” in the state.
Calling the government’s decision “historic”, he said it is the beginning of a “new era” when all citizens have equal rights and responsibilities.
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, labour laws never reached its people,” he said.
Since Sunday, Jammu and Kashmir has been paralysed by an unprecedented lockdown to prevent any backlash over the government’s big move.
More than 50,000 security personnel have been pushed into Jammu and Kashmir in addition to the existing troops. There has been a complete communications blackout – as part of which phone services and internet connections have been snapped.
Prohibitory orders are in place as part of which large gatherings and meetings are banned and the state’s mainstream political leaders, including former Chief Ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, have been under arrest.