August 10, 2010
I welcome you today with grief in my heart, but hope in my mind.
I grieve for all those who have lost their near and dear ones in Kashmir and in the Ladakh region.
I propose that we rise to observe a minute’s silence to pray for the departed.
(one minute silence)
The Government of India will continue to provide relief and other assistance and help the State Government in providing rehabilitation for all those affected by the unfortunate natural disaster in Ladakh. The whole country is with the people of J&K in their hour of sorrow.
The events in Kashmir over the past few weeks have caused me great pain. I share the grief, the sorrow and the sense of loss of every mother, every father, every family and every child in Kashmir.
I can feel the pain and understand the anger and frustration that is bringing young people out on to the streets of Kashmir. Many of them have seen nothing but violence and conflict in their lives and have been scarred by suffering.
Today I wish to share with you my sense of hope for the people of Jammu and Kashmir that I have long nurtured.
The State is only now emerging from the shadow of more than two decades of a deadly insurgency, which brought only death and devastation to the beautiful State. These were two lost decades in the history of Jammu & Kashmir’s development.
Let us make a new beginning. I appeal to the youth to go back to their schools and colleges and allow classes to resume. I ask their parents: what future is there for Kashmir if your children are not educated?
I am convinced that the only way forward in Jammu and Kashmir is along the path of dialogue and reconciliation.
Our Government, more than any other government in the past, has invested heavily in the peace process in Kashmir. The brave rejection of militancy by the people opened the door for us to pursue an unprecedented and intensive internal and external dialogue on the issues that have bedeviled Jammu and Kashmir for six decades.
With Pakistan we took a number of bold and indeed historic decisions. A bus service was started. We facilitated trade across the LOC. We facilitated arrangements for divided families to meet. We changed the policy on allowing people representing different shades of opinion to visit Pakistan because we wanted to involve all sections of the people in the peace process.
We set up a number of round-tables and then working groups in which many of you participated actively. Recognising the diversity of the State, we tried to address the problems of the Kashmir valley, Jammu and Ladakh in a comprehensive manner. We committed unprecedented financial resources for the State’s economic reconstruction.
I repeat all this to remind you of the many positive things that have happened as a result of the peace process and the sincere efforts we have made to bring about a durable peace in Jammu & Kashmir.
Nothing will give me greater satisfaction than to see a permanent and just settlement of all outstanding issues that protects the honour and self-respect of all sections of the people of the State.
But even with the best of these intentions, I cannot say that a complex problem that has defied resolution for 63 years can be solved easily or quickly. We need patience, wisdom and a spirit of conciliation to guide us through ups and downs in the process.
I urge the people of Jammu and Kashmir to give peace a chance. There is a lot of hard work that needs to be done to rebuild the State and its institutions. We must promote economic activity and create opportunities for employment. We must build physical and human resource infrastructure.
But I recognize that the key to the problem is a political solution that addresses the alienation and emotional needs of the people. This can only be achieved through a sustained internal and external dialogue. We are ready for this. We are willing to discuss all issues within the bounds of our democratic processes and framework.
But this process can gather momentum and yield results only if there is a prolonged peace.
I believe that the vast majority of the people want a peaceful resolution of all issues. Let us recognize that repeated agitations whether violent or otherwise only obstruct this process.
The cycle of violence must now come to an end. We must collectively ensure that no innocent life is lost again. It is, of course, the bounden duty of the Government to maintain law and order. We cannot allow the turmoil to continue.
We understand the prevailing public sentiment on the issue of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Eventually the J&K Police has to take on the burden of normal law and order duties. They do not require special powers to discharge their functions. We will help to accelerate the process of strengthening and expanding the J&K Pol