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PM inaugurates Katra rail link amid shutdown in J-K

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday arrived in Srinagar amid a separatist shutdown call after inaugurating the 25 km-long Katra-Udhampur railway line in Jammu earlier in the day.

india Updated: Jul 04, 2014 17:50 IST
Peerzada Ashiq
Peerzada Ashiq
Hindustan Times
Narendra Modi,Jammu and Kashmir,Katra

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday arrived in Srinagar amid a separatist shutdown call after inaugurating the 25 km-long Katra-Udhampur railway line in Jammu earlier in the day.

The rail link will connect the base camp town of Katra directly with the rest of the country and help millions of devotees who come to pay obeisance at the Vaishno Devi shrine every year.

Watch: PM Modi flags off special train to Vaishno Devi

Modi's visit comes almost a month after a controversy over revoking Article 370 of the Constitution that gives special status to the state erupted in the wake of the BJP-led government assuming charge at the Centre.

Focus will also be on what Modi says on rehabilitating Kashmiri Pandits. Modi, during his election campaign, had blamed ruling National Conference (NC) leader Farooq Abdullah for their the exodus from the valley.

Modi is scheduled to review security situation in Srinagar in his maiden visit to Jammu and Kashmir after taking over as the PM.

He will then head to north Kashmir's Uri, which is close to the Line of Control, to inaugurate a 240 megawatt NHPC owned hydro-power project.

PM Narendra Modi and Jammu and Kashmir CM Omar Abdullah greet at the inauguration of the Katra railway station in Katra, Jammu. (AFP photo)

Modi arrived in Srinagar as separatist sponsored shutdown brought normal life to a grinding halt.

The roads wore a deserted look and schools and offices remained closed in most parts of the valley.

In the old parts of Srinagar, residents alleged the security forces have increased frisking and restricted movement of vehicles.

There have been no reports of any untoward incidents.

Most separatists, including chairmen of moderate and hardline Hurriyat Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Syed Ali Geelani and JKLF chief Yasin Malik, have called for a strike against the visit of PM Modi.

The authorities have placed around half a dozen separatist leaders under house arrest.

Militants groups have also issued fiery statements on Modi's visit to the state.

Read:'Development of J-K depends on railways'

Additional troops have been moved to Jammu and Kashmir to ensure a peaceful visit for the prime minister. Reinforcements have already been sent from Srinagar to Baramulla.

All sensitive areas have been placed under strict vigil and barricades set up by putting vehicles and concertina wires to stop any vehicle entering into these areas without permission.

More than 2,300 police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed from Srinagar to Uri.

Heightened security's focus is to thwart any 2013-like militant attack that took place ahead of former PM Manmohan Singh's visit.

In June last year, eight armymen were killed on the Srinagar-Baramulla highway near Hyderpora by suicide attackers on the eve of Singh's visit.

'Want to win people's hearts' After flagging off the inaugural train from the newly-built Katra railway station, the base camp of the Vaishno Devi shrine, to Udhampur he said the link will help in the development of Jammu.

"This is a facility not only for the people of Jammu and Kashmir but also for the people of India, who want to visit Jammu and Kashmir," said Modi.

The PM suggested the new train to Katra be named Shreeshakti express and said the rail link will help in the development of Jammu.

"I assure you that there will be no shortage or obstacle in the development of Jammu," said Modi.

He added his government will make Jammu's development more qualitative and that Katra will develop very fast in the coming times.

"It is every Indian's dream that Jammu and Kashmir is happy and there is prosperity. We have to work for this, be it in power or not in power," he said.

Modi said the journey was started by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to connect Jammu and Kashmir through railways which has to be taken forward.

"Our aim is to win hearts of people of Jammu and Kashmir through development," the PM said.

A paramilitary soldier checks medical prescription papers of a man as they question him during restrictions in Srinagar. (AP photo)

"Jammu and Kashmir has gone through several problems and we want it to be prosperous and peaceful."

Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah, Union railway minister Sadananda Gowda and minister of state in the PMO Jitendra Singh and chairman of the railway board were present during the ceremony.

He also assured that India's railway stations will be modernised with proper facilities and hinted at a possibility of private investment in the Indian Railways.

Pilgrims will be able to directly reach Katra after Modi flagged off the first train from the station nestled in Trikuta Hills in Jammu and Kashmir's Reasi district.

The train for Jammu will chug along the newly constructed line from the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Katra Station.

It will traverse through seven tunnels and over 30 small and large bridges. There will be a small station - Chakrakhwal - between Udhampur and Katra. The 25 km-long Udhampur-Katra line has been built at an estimated cost of Rs. 1,132.75 crore.

(With IANS inputs)

First Published: Jul 04, 2014 10:10 IST