PM Modi greeted by bandh in Kashmir, appeals to Valley youth

Addressing the youth, Narendra Modi said they have the responsibility to make the state proud.

india Updated: May 19, 2018 23:38 IST
Mir Ehsan and Ashiq Hussain
Mir Ehsan and Ashiq Hussain
Hindustan Times, Srinagar
Modi in Kashmir,Kashmir,Kashmiri youth
Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks during a function at Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) in Srinagar on Saturday. (Waseem Andrabi/HT)

Three days after the suspension of counter-insurgency operations in Kashmir for the Islamic holy month of Ramzan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday appealed to young militants to return to the mainstream, as the Valley shut down to protest his visit.

Modi was in Srinagar to unveil a plaque for the upcoming Srinagar Ring Road and to inaugurate the 330-MW Kishenganga power project which has come up in Bandipora. Earlier, he kick-started work on Zojila Tunnel on the Srinagar-Leh National Highway in Leh.

“I believe the youth who have lost their way should come back to the mainstream. The mainstream is their family and parents. The mainstream is their participation in the development of the state,” Modi said in an address to a gathering at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre in Srinagar.

Modi blamed foreign forces for the young in Jammu and Kashmir going astray. “Every stone or weapon picked up by the misguided youth injures their own Jammu and Kashmir. You will have to come out of this atmosphere. Not only your future but for the future of J&K, you will have to join the Indian mainstream.’’ he said.

Invoking Kashmiryat, he said that he the region’s culture is unique. “Last time I came to Kashmir on Diwali. Today I am here on Ramzan. This is Kashmir. Here everybody is welcome. It is a culture you will see nowhere else. Former prime minister Atal-ji (Atal Bihari Vajpayee) was a fan of Kashmiriyat and Modi is also a follower of the same Kashmiriyat.”

Modi’s visit follows Wednesday’s suspension of security operations against Kashmiri militants with the caveat that they reserve the right to retaliate if they are attacked or if it is essential to protect the lives of civilians. The suspension, at the request of chief minister Mehbooba Mufi, was a gesture of goodwill towards the restive valley, where violence has increased in recent months.

On Saturday, the authorities imposed restrictions on movement in parts of Kashmir and suspended mobile internet services as people observed a shutdown strike across the Valley.

Streets were deserted and markets closed in response to a call by separatist leaders Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik to protest against the PM’s visit. The trio had also called for a peaceful protest march to Lal Chowk in the city centre to demand “Azadi, for which we have been giving our sacrifices for the past 70 years.”

The authorities imposed restrictions on movement in and around, Lal Chowk which is the commercial hub of Srinagar. Police and the Central Reserve Police Force personnel erected iron barricades with barbed wire to prevent mass movement of people and thwart the separatist rally. The government also closed schools and colleges while Kashmir University postponed its examinations for the day.

Mirwaiz, who was under house arrest, was detained by police outside his Nigeen residence in Srinagar as soon as he tried to march towards Lal Chowk. Geelani was under house detention and Malik in police custody. A group of supporters of Malik’s Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front were detained by police as they gathered near Budshah Chowk Maisuma from where they tried to march towards Lal Chowk. “The situation so far has been stable. There were a few minor incidents of stone pelting which by Kashmir standards are normal,” said a police official in Srinagar on condition of anonymity. The roads leading to the venue of the PM’s function at Sheri Kashmir International Convention Centre on the banks of the Dal Lake were also sealed and traffic leading to the venue from two sides was also suspended. Mobile internet services were also blocked from midnight and were resumed after the PM left for Jammu in the afternoon.

First Published: May 19, 2018 18:35 IST