PM appeals for peace in Kashmir

Breaking his silence after 32 days of turmoil in Kashmir, the ''Heaven on Earth'' which turned into ''hell'' with separatist militants unleashing terror on the streets and intimidating security personnel, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday called for peace in the Valley to address people's grievances.

Reaching out to the people of the Valley, the prime minister advocated the path of ''democracy and dialogue'' to restore peace in the spirit of 'insaniyat' (humanity), 'jamhuriyat' (democracy) and 'Kashmiriyat'.

With continuing strife in the state, which saw more than 55 people die in clashes and an ongoing curfew in large parts of the state, Modi said innocent youngsters, who should be holding laptops, books and cricket bats, are being misguided to wield sticks and stones.

Addressing a public meeting at Bhabra village in Madhya Pradesh on Tuesday, the prime minister said his government would follow the path of Vajpayee in bringing Kashmir back to normal.

''When Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister, he had adopted the path of 'insaniyat', 'jamhuriyat' and 'Kashmiriyat' and we walk the same road. I want to tell the brothers and sisters of Kashmir from this great birthplace of Chandra Shekhar Azad that Kashmir has the same strength that has been given to (other parts of) India by our freedom fighters,'' he said.

On separatists' call for 'azadi' (freedom) for the state, Modi said the people of Jammu and Kashmir enjoy all the freedom that people elsewhere in the country, perhaps even more.

Separatist elements in the Valley unleashed a reign of terror in the aftermath of the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani by security forces on 8 July.

Modi, who was addressing a public rally to kick off a 15-day exercise – 70 Saal Azadi-Zara Yaad Karo Kurbani – a BJP initiative to commemorate  Independence Day, asserted that the Mehbooba Mufti government and the Centre were working together to address the state's problems.

''Today, one feels pained to see that innocent youth have been handed stones. Politics of some people is clicking but what will happen to these gullible and simple youth. Humanity and Kashmiriyat will not be allowed to be hit. The path of democracy and dialogue is there,'' he said.

He said the state government, along with the Centre, is working towards the state's development, adding that his government would do everything in this regard and will help lawyers, doctors, those depending on tourism and apple growers in their endeavours.

''Our Kashmir is heaven for the countrymen. Every Indian has a dream to travel to Kashmir some day. But we can see that a handful of people in Kashmir, which is loved by India so much...a few misled people are harming this great tradition,'' he said.

''The common man in Kashmir wants peace,'' he said.

''Peace, unity and harmony in Kashmir... And I will especially call upon the youngsters of Kashmir that my friends, let's see to it that Kashmir remains heaven on earth. Let's move forward with this dream,'' he said.

He hailed other political parties, especially the Congress, for speaking in one voice on the Kashmir issue, calling it the strength of India. ''We would like to move forward with this strength,'' he said.

''The Governments of India and Jammu & Kashmir, besides 125 crore Indians, wish you well. They want your development. Whatever India has to give for your development, we are ready to give,'' he said.

In Kashmir, there has been no dearth of people willing to die for the country, he said, asking the masses to join hands in nation-building.