Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said the youth of the Kashmir Valley have to decide between “tourism and terrorism”, and that the choice they make would determine their future and that of the state. Urging them to give up their “stone-pelting pastime”, Mr Modi said they should become a part of the sustainable and fast-paced development of the state. “Forty years of bloodshed had not benefited anyone,” he noted, only “so many mothers have lost their sons”.
On a brief visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Sunday to inaugurate India’s longest road tunnel (of 9.2 km) that will reduce the distance between the state’s twin capitals of Srinagar and Jammu by two hours, the Prime Minister said if tourism had been promoted in these 40 years, the world “would have been at Kashmir’s feet”. He added: “Every Indian has a dream to visit Kashmir once as a tourist, this will boost tourism, the more the tourism the better will be the economy and the people of the Valley will benefit from it.” He while speaking at a public rally after dedicating the 9.2-km tunnel to the nation, where he pledged the entire country was with J&K if tourism is the focus.
Mr Modi said Pakistan could not take care of itself and yet its rulers were eying Kashmir. Referring to Occupied Kashmir and its people, he alleged they had been “ruined” after being “subjugated” by Islamabad. He said they too would know what development means as the Indian government was committed to take Jammu and Kashmir to heights of development and prosperity. He again invoked former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s doctrine of “Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat aur Kashmiriyat (humanity, democracy and Kashmiriyat — the ethno-national and social consciousness and cultural values of the Kashmiri people)”, and said this “prime motto” would be used to take the state to new heights of development. “No obstacle can stop us,” the PM added.
Trying to reason with the Valley’s “stone-pelters”, he said stones can be used for better purposes — to build infrastructure. “On one hand, the youth of the Valley are throwing stones and, on the other, over 2,500 youth of this very place toiled hard day and night to be part of (blasting and extraction) processes to make this tunnel. They must realise the power of a stone. It can be carved to build infrastructure,” he said. He said if they ignored Kashmir’s “invaluable tradition of Sufi culture”, they would “lose the present… and put your future into darkness”.
Mr Modi promised to stand shoulder-to-shoulder in the development of J&K and sought the cooperation of the people for this, saying there were two options — tourism and terrorism — before Kashmir’s youth, that could determine their future.
He said the tunnel, which runs between Chenani and Nashri along the Jammu-Srinagar highway, will ensure a safe and swift passage for commuters, even in adverse weather conditions, and farmers, including the Valley’s fruit growers, will benefit from it, besides helping the state to boost tourism. He said the tunnel will be discussed in India, but also climate activists all over the world will see hope in this. “We’ve worked to safeguard the Himalayas and the environment. This tunnel will change the fortunes of the Valley farmers. Their produce will not rot due to road closures for days,” he said.
A strike called by separatists, meanwhile, closed the Valley on the eve of the Prime Minister’s visit.