Srinagar, India, April 24 (EFE): Indian prime minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said that India-administered Kashmir has become “a symbol of peace” and development in the last few years.
He made his first public appearance in the disputed region since 2019, when his Hindu nationalist government revoked its semi-autonomous status.
“In the last few years, Kashmir has created a new dimension for law, peace and development,” Modi told a large gathering in the region’s Jammu area.
In an apparent reference to the August 2019 decisions, Modi said, “a new story of development is being written in Kashmir, the region has become a symbol of peace and an example of development for the whole country.”
Before addressing the rally, Modi inaugurated and laid the foundation stones for new development projects in the region.
“Work is going on rapidly to give new impetus to development in Kashmir,” Modi said.
High security was put in place for Modi’s visit, and he received a rousing welcome in Palli, with tens of thousands welcoming him at an event organized by his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Palli is a village in the Hindu-dominated Jammu division, which celebrated New Delhi’s introduction of direct rule to the region in August 2019.
A powerful explosion was heard early Sunday in Laliyana village, about 8 kilometers away from Palli.
Police said that a small crater was formed following the explosion at around 4.30 am in agricultural fields, which may have been caused “either by lightning or a small meteorite”.
It was Modi’s first public official visit in the region since his government’s 2019 controversial decisions.
However, he had made two informal visits to celebrate Hindu festivals with troops stationed along the Line of Control (LoC), the de-facto border dividing Kashmir.
The abrogation of the region’s semi-autonomous status was followed by mass arrests, restrictions, the world’s longest internet shutdown to avoid protests against the approval of controversial laws.
Modi’s government says that scrapping of the semi-autonomous status of Kashmir was aimed at promoting a lasting peace and bringing investment into the troubled region, where tens of thousands of people have been killed over the years.
Critics, however, say that New Delhi has adopted such a tough policy in Kashmir to suppress the opposition.
The conflict-torn Himalayan region, divided between India and Pakistan, has been claimed by both nuclear powers ever since their independence from Britain in 1947. EFE