Breaking his silence on the 32-day turmoil in Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday advocated a path of "democracy and dialogue" to restore peace in the spirit of 'insaniyat (humanity), jamhuriyat (democracy) and Kashmiriyat'.
Reaching out to the people of the turbulent Kashmir which has witnessed the death of over 55 people in clashes and a record-breaking curfew in large parts, Modi said it was painful to see innocent youngsters, who should be holding laptops, books and cricket bats, "handed" stones and appealed to them for maintaining peace and harmony in the "heaven on earth".
Obviously alluding to the voices favouring 'azadi' (freedom) for the state, he said people of Jammu and Kashmir had the same freedoms as enjoyed by every Indian.
These were Modi's first comments on the continuing unrest in Kashmir in the aftermath of the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen Commander Burhan Wani by security forces on July 8.
Modi, who was addressing a public rally here, also asserted that the Mehbooba Mufti government and the Centre are working together to solve the state's difficulties but some people, who are unable to digest it, are clinging onto the path to destruction.
"When Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister he had adopted the path of Insaniyat, Jamhuriyat and Kashmiriyat and we walk the same road. I want to tell the brothers and sisters of Kashmir from this great birthplace of Chandra Shekhar Azad that Kashmir has the same strength that has been given to (other parts of) India by our freedom fighters. Kashmir has the same freedom that every Indian feels. Today, one feels pained to see that innocent youths have been handed stones. Politics of some people is clicking but what will happen to these gullible and simple youths. Humanity and Kashmiriyat will not be allowed to be hit. The path of democracy and dialogue is there," he said.
Asserting that the state government, in which BJP is a partner, along with the Centre, is working towards the state's development, he said his government would do everything in this regard and will help lawyers, doctors, those depending on tourism and apple growers in their endeavours.
"Our Kashmir is heaven for the countrymen. Every Indian has a dream to travel to Kashmir some day. But we can see that a handful of people in Kashmir, which is loved by India so much….A few misled people are harming this great tradition," he said before invoking Vajpayee's 'insaniyat (humanity), jamhuriyat (democracy) and Kashmiriyat' mantra.
"The common man in Kashmir wants peace," he said.
His government wants to take Kashmir to new heights of development, empower its panchayats and give job opportunities to its youths, he said.
The Prime Minister complimented Mehbooba Mufti for ensuring that the Amarnath yatra continues despite the "malicious intentions" of a few people.
"Peace, unity and harmony in Kashmir… And I will especially call upon the youngsters of Kashmir that my friends let's see to it that Kashmir remains heaven on earth. Let's move forward with this dream," he said.
The Prime Minister hailed other political parties, especially Congress, for speaking in one voice on the Kashmir issue, calling it the strength of India. "We would like to move forward with this strength," he said.
"Governments of India and Jammu & Kashmir, besides 125 crore Indians, wish you well. They want your development. Whatever India has to give for your development, we are ready to give," he said.
In Kashmir, there has been no dearth of people willing to die for India, he said, asking the masses to join hands for "nation-building."
Referring to world-famous Kashmiri apples, Modi said the season was about to begin in a few days and the entire country was eagerly waiting to taste them. The people of Kashmir should ensure their efforts in growing them do not go waste, he said.
"The efforts you have made, you must be paid for that," he said while promising all necessary support from the Centre.
Modi also used the occasion to make an appeal to Maoists and militants to lay down their arms, asking them to reflect if violence has given them anything even though they lost so much. "Pick up plough and give up guns to turn the soil from red to green," he said.