Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday offered the full support of the central government in making Jammu and Kashmir a progressive state and also lauded the tribal Gujjar community's contribution in fighting terrorism in the state.
Gandhi, on a day-long visit to Jammu, made it clear in her address after inaugurating a tribal cultural centre built by the Gurjar Desh Charitabe Trust, that her party and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the centre were "committed to the development of Jammu and Kashmir".
"Our UPA government is committed in putting its best foot forward and helping Jammu and Kashmir move on the path of progress. The state should adopt the latest scientific methods and use computers to advance the path of education and progress," she said to loud applause from the audience, which included Chief Minister Omar Abdullah.
This was Gandhi's first visit to Jammu after the UPA government began its second tenure a year ago.
She, in particular, mentioned the Gujjars, also known as Gurjars, and their contribution in fighting terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.
"Their contribution is immense in foiling the designs of terrorists in the state and fighting terrorism. Theirs is a saga of bravery and deep commitment towards the nation," she said.
Jammu and Kashmir has been in the grip of militancy-related violence for the past 20 years and nearly 50,000 people have died in the conflict.
Talking about her party's association with the Gujjar community, which forms nearly one fourth of 10 million population of the state, she said: "Our relationship is not new. The relationship between the Congress party and Gujjars in Jammu and Kashmir dates back to the days of Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi."
Jawaharlal Nehru was the first prime minister of India and his daughter Indira Gandhi, also a prime minister, was Sonia Gandhi's mother-in-law.
Twice in her speech of less than seven minutes, Sonia lauded the contribution of the Gujjar community in preserving peace in the state and also exhorted them to maintain the same spirit to guard the peace and put the state on the path of progress and prosperity.
Gujjars are a mostly nomadic tribe, but for the past over two decades, some of them have permanently settled in towns and villages and are getting their children educated, rather than making them to tend to cattle and sheep.