Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming visit to Jammu and Kashmir will be a turning point in its history, Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed said on Sunday.
Addressing a public meeting in Srinagar, he said the state’s people have great expectations from visit of Modi who “is a visionary and has his eyes fixed on overall development”.
“I see this visit as an opportunity for history to repeat itself,” he said, recalling the address of then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at the same venue (Sher-e-Kashmir cricket stadium) during his 2003 visit.
Coming to Srinagar on a day-long visit on November 7, Modi is scheduled to address a public rally.
Sayeed said that after thoughtful consideration for more than two months, he took a calibrated decision to opt for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the larger interests of all the three distinct regions of the state, despite the Congress and National Conference’s offers of support.
“Way back in 1947, our visionary leaders had demonstrated similar political maturity and acumen to accede with India keeping in view the pluralistic demography of J&K.
“We will remove trust deficit and ensure that no region harbours a feeling of deprivation or discrimination,” he said, while defending his decision to align with BJP, which swept the 2014 parliamentary elections in the Jammu region.
“I met Narendra Modi a couple of times and realized that he genuinely wants to win the hearts and minds of people of the state,” he added.
Reiterating that he has no lust for power nor does he have any hidden agenda, Sayeed said that he could also have safeguarded his political career at the centre but chose to create a platform – his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – for articulating the aspirations of the state’s people.
Recalling his earlier tenure, he said when he took over the reins, the state resembled a jail with people having little hope and expectations, recalled his decisions to release political prisoners besides opening up new routes both within the state and across the Line of Control to Pakistani Kashmir.
“I favour opening of more trading and travel points to further bolster confidence between the people living on two sides of the Line of Control,” he said.
Urging both India and Pakistan to shun confrontation and engage in a meaningful dialogue, he noted the state is the first casualty of any hostile environment between the two countries.
Praising Modi for inviting Nawaz Sharif in his swearing-in ceremony when he took over as prime minister, Sayeed stressed that if India has to emerge as a world power, it will have to foster and maintain friendly relations with all its neighbours, including Pakistan.
Highlighting his immediate concerns on economic front, he said he expects central support in restoration of damaged infrastructure, relief to flood-affected people and long-term measures to prevent recurrence of floods by constructing Dogripora-Wullar alternate flood channel.
Admitting that there are different shades of opinion in the state, he described as “disturbing” the attempts aimed at vitiating the peaceful atmosphere ahead of Modi’s visit.
Stressing that his government will not allow anyone to take law into their own hands, Sayeed also made a pointed reference to the state cabinet’s resolution which unanimously condemned the unfortunate killing of Zahid Rasool Bhat, who succumbed to his injuries after his truck was set on fire in Udhampur last month.
He said the investigation into the killing of Bhat will be fast-tracked so that those responsible for the heinous crime are brought to justice.