The Narendra Modi government has a 15-year blueprint for Kashmir and the elimination of terrorism from the region has started with the scrapping of the state's special status under Article 370, said Union home minister Amit Shah said in an exclusive interview with Network18 group editor-in-Chief Rahul Joshi.
Shah said that the government's top priority is to maintain peace in Kashmir. “There were 3 issues with respect to Kashmir – separatism and terrorism, rampant corruption and the absence of a blueprint for the state's future. I think the root cause of all three issues was Article 370,” Shah said.
Blaming Article 370 as the root cause of terrorism and secessionism, the Union home minister added, “Pakistan influenced the local youth just because of Article 370. First with secession – from a separate state to azaadi – if not that, turn them to terrorism and hand them guns. Since the 1990s, 40,000 people have been killed and if someone does a detailed study of this, you quickly understand that Article 370 is responsible. We have tried to stop the root cause of terrorism by abrogating Article 370 and in this direction, I hope we will move successfully.”
Sharing the centre’s plan for the development of Jammu and Kashmir, Shah said, “There was no ACB. Under article 370, there was no anti-corruption bureau and today all laws of the country are applicable there. We have sent the ED, I-T dept and ACB there. We have tightened the screws around the menace of corruption. Central aid and state revenue is now reaching the public. This will increase development. Under the 73rd amendment, a big part of the budget used to be allotted for local body polls but they were never used. Panch, Sarpanch and Zila Panchayat – these polls would never happen. Since the 73rd and 74th amendment is applicable, we will conduct the polls regularly now.”
The home minister, in fact, pointed to the ongoing local polls, while also maintaining that the removal of Article 370 was key to remove hurdles in J&K’s developments.
“Right now, block development council polls are ongoing and we have allotted a huge amount of 6500 crore rupees directly to the panchayats. This will also boost development work in villages. Thirdly, a group of experienced legislators are making a 15-year roadmap for the valley and I believe that based on that if we develop the infrastructure, education, health, industry and tourism sectors of the valley, then nobody can stop the state from becoming a developed one. The major hurdle for all of these was Article 370 and Article 35A which we have successfully removed,” Shah said.
On plans for a special package, Shah said “PM Modi had already issued a special package for the state but there was no implementation as there was so much corruption. Now, with a vision and blueprint, we will move towards progress.”
Responding to criticism in the foreign media over the issue of house arrest of local leaders, Shah blamed the Congress and the National Conference.
“The Congress is trying to make this an issue as well as the national conference. I want to tell these two parties that we haven't turned the politics of the valley on its head. Congress kept Sheikh Abdullah in jail for 11 years and the CM was also jailed.”
On how long local leaders will remain in detention under PSA, Shah said, “We just took a big step and if we feel there is any intention to incite violence, then we have to take these steps. Our top priority is peace in Kashmir.”
Regarding restoration of statehood to J&K, Shah said the decision will depend on the situation in the state and if everyone cooperates, then the situation might normalise soon and it could be done quickly.
Read other stories from the interview here.