US & World

India PM Narendra Modi vows to ‘restore’ Kashmir’s ‘past glory’

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi waves at the crowd during a ceremony to celebrate country's 73rd Independence Day, which marks the of the end of British colonial rule, at the Red Fort in New Delhi on August 15, 2019.Image copyright Getty Images

Indian PM Narendra Modi has said his decision to strip Indian-administered Kashmir of its special status will restore the region to its “past glory”.

He said Kashmir will play an “important role” in India’s development during an Independence Day speech on Thursday.

He said Article 370, the constitutional provision that granted it special status, had only encouraged corruption.

Mr Modi did not refer to the lockdown and communications blackout imposed in Kashmir since the decision last week.

He made the remarks during an address at the iconic Red Fort in the capital Delhi on Thursday.

India celebrates Independence Day one day after Pakistan, which was partitioned from India in 1947.

During his speech on Wednesday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan criticised India for its Kashmir move.

“The world’s eye is on Kashmir and on Pakistan. Whatever was done during the curfew by India, we will tell the international community that you are responsible. Whichever forum we get, I will be the ambassador and bring up Kashmir at every forum,” he said.

But Mr Modi did not respond directly to Mr Khan’s remarks. Instead, he criticised people at home who opposed the revocation of Article 370, accusing them of “playing politics”.

Past governments had lacked the courage to take such a bold step because they were worried about their political future, he said.

“I don’t care about my political future. For me, the country’s future comes first.”

Kashmir has been in lockdown for more than a week now, with mobile, landline and internet networks cut off and curfew-like restrictions that ban people from assembling in crowds. However, officials said on Wednesday that these restrictions had now been eased in the Hindu-majority Jammu region.

Despite the security clampdown however, there have been protests against the revocation of Article 370, including one on Friday in Srinagar in the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley. It involved thousands of people coming out after midday prayers to demonstrate against the move.

Many Kashmiris believe that Mr Modi’s Hindu nationalist government’s move is aimed at changing the demographics of the region by allowing other Indians to permanently settle there. The government denies this and has consistently framed its move as one made to facilitate economic development and security.

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Media captionThe Indian government has said this protest never took place

Although Kashmir took centre stage during the Independence Day speech, the prime minister also made several other important announcements.

For the first time in the history of independent India, there will be a Chief of Defence Staff who will have authority over all three of India’s armed forces.

He also addressed the problem of single-use plastic, urging people to reduce their usage, and referred to other issues such as water shortage, population control and healthcare.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-49354178

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