From a thundering applause when his name was announced in the Kashmir University's auditorium to words of praise from India's top industrialist Ratan Tata, it was Rahul Gandhi all the way in Kashmir on Friday.
Speaking to media after a two-hour interactive session with about 1,500
students from Kashmir University and affiliated colleges, Tata praised Rahul for what he called "opening the gates to Kashmir". A visibly enthused Tata said: "It has been a step forward to be able to have a conversation with a great wealth of human capital that exists in Kashmir".
"What Mr Gandhi has done is not open a window but open a door," said Tata, adding that Kashmir had enormous potential.
Rahul also struck the cord with youth again in no time. Wearing the traditional Kashmiri fur cap, Karakuli, and pressing his Kashmir roots, the young Gandhi pledged to build a long-term relationship with the youth in the Valley. "I understand your pain and am a part of you".
Gandhi told the youth that he was in Srinagar to keep his promise made to them last year of bringing industrialists to allay their fears about the Valley. "The main aim is to build trust and make it a regular process of interaction," he said.
Gandhi had brought leading businessmen to interact with the students of Kashmir University. Besides Ratan Tata, the delegation included Aditya Birla group's Kumar Magalam Birla and HDFC chairman Deepak Parikh.
"They (students) are very happy to speak with the businessmen. The youth here have aspirations and we want to fulfill as many as possible. My aim is to develop trust and a long-term relationship with the youth of Jammu and Kashmir," he said.
Speaking to media after a closed-door interaction with students. Rahul said: "They are very bright students. We want to try build a future together."
On their part, the industrialists also gave hope of a bright future to youth and promises to promote talent.
Ratan Tata said it was for the industry leaders to do something for people of Kashmir so that they became a part of the growth and development of the country.
Speaking to media, Tata promised to do something special for Kashmir. "It is for us as people in the industry to look beyond our normal places of endeavour to do something in Kashmir that will bring prosperity and change," he added.
Assuring that his company will recruit more youth from Kashmir, Kumara Mangalam Birla, said "It is merit, competence, innovation and a degree of capability that count, not the region.
"We will explore possibility of recruiting youth of Kashmir during our placements across the country," he added.
On the issue of credit loans, HDFC chairman Parikh said credit loans required stability, peace and industrial growth.
"Tourism is one sector where investment can be thought of, but it also requires inflow of tourists like a good tourist season accompanied by peace and stability," said Parikh.
The students also got a promise of controlled training and internship in the business houses.
Excitement on the students' faces was also visible. "It was a dream come true to share space with industry greats," said Ahmad, a management student.
While many students were able to get their questions answered, a few couldn't. "We got very little time. I wish we could ask more questions," said Mudasir Yusuf, a mechanical engineering student.
"I wanted to ask these people to some sort of innovation centre here, so that we can also get involved in the innovative process," he added.
Rashid Yusuf another student, however, was not impressed. "The leaders said there was a trust deficit, I wanted to ask them what they meant," Yusuf wondered.
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