India’s Muslim-majority Kashmir region was stripped of its autonomy to free it from Pakistani-encouraged “terrorism and separatism”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Thursday.
In his first comments on the constitutional bombshell announced Monday while Kashmir was under a military lockdown, Modi highlighted security as one of the top reasons for the “historic decision”.
“Friends, I have full belief that we will be able to free Jammu and Kashmir from terrorism and separatism under this (new) system,” Modi said.
“I have full faith that the people of Jammu and Kashmir, after defeating separatism, will move forward with new hopes and aspirations.”
Modi said nuclear rival Pakistan used Kashmir’s special status “as a weapon against the country to inflame the passions of some people” against the Indian state.
Kashmir has been divided between Pakistan and India since independence from the British in 1947.
The contesting claims over Kashmir have led to two of their nation’s three wars.
An armed rebellion against Indian rule has raged in the valley since 1989, claiming more than 70,000 lives, mostly civilians.
Modi’s Hindu nationalist government on rushed through a presidential decree to end Kashmir’s constitutionally guaranteed status, which had been in place for seven decades.
Parliament also passed a law splitting the state into two territories.
Modi said the special status had “not given anything other than terrorism, separatism, nepotism and big corruption”.
But with Kashmir now fully part of the Indian union, the region would enjoy more jobs, corruption and red-tape, he said, adding key infrastructure projects would be expedited.
Modi said he respected opposition politicians and prominent Kashmiris who had opposed the government’s strongarm tactics.
“We are working to answer their points but I request them to act to keep India’s interests and help Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh,” he said.
“I want to assure my Jammu and Kashmir colleagues that slowly things will become normal and their problems will reduce.”
Ahead of the Monday’s announcement, tens of thousands of Indian troops imposed a lockdown in Kashmir, which remains in place.
Internet and telephone connections in Kashmir have been cut as part of the lockdown, and hundreds of people have reportedly been detained.
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