Delimitation in Jammu and Kashmir will be followed by elections and restoration of statehood, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said on Saturday as he visited the Valley for the first time since Article 370 was revoked two years ago.
"Why should we stop delimitation? Nothing is going to stop. After delimitation, there will be elections and then restoration of statehood," Mr Shah said in an address to members of youth clubs in Srinagar.
Earlier this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Shah met representatives of Kashmir's political parties in Delhi. Following the meeting, both Mr Modi and Mr Shah had stressed that delimitation should be completed at the earliest so that steps to restore statehood can be taken.
The Union Home Minister's visit to the Valley comes at a time when the centre faces a major security challenge in the wake of targeted civilian killings that triggered an exodus of migrant labourers and Kashmiri Pandits. The visit also comes amid the ongoing anti-terror operation in Poonch that has claimed the lives of nine soldiers, including two officers.
Earlier on Saturday, Mr Shah discussed the security situation at a high-level meeting.
In his address to members of youth clubs, Mr Shah said the revocation of Article 370 is "irreversible".
Defending the communication blockade and curfew following the August 5, 2019 move to revoke Article 370, Mr Shah said they were a "bitter pill" meant to save lives.
Kashmir was under curfew for months and witnessed the world's longest internet shutdown after the revocation of Article 370.
"There was a lot of criticism about why there is curfew, why there is internet shutdown. I will answer. First I want to ask a question. For 70 years, three families ruled here. Why were 40,000 people killed in Kashmir? Do you have an answer?"
"During that time [when Article 370 was revoked], they tried to incite people. A conspiracy was hatched, some foreign powers were part of it. How many fathers would have shouldered coffins of their young sons if we had not imposed a curfew. Who was saved by imposing the curfew? The youth of Kashmir was saved."
The Home Minister said the abrogation of special status changed Kashmir's narrative from terrorism to development.
"Two years ago, news from Kashmir was about terrorism and stone-pelting. Today it's development, education, skill development, youth engagement," he said.
Mr Shah said he is visiting Kashmir to "forge a friendship with the youth of Kashmir". "Join hands with Modi ji and the Government of India and become partners in the journey to take Kashmir forward," he said, adding that the youth in the Valley must take advantage of various opportunities being created by the administration for their progress.
"Make democracy stronger here, let the youth respond to the elements who try to make people go astray," he said.
Extensive security arrangements have been made in view of the Home Minister's three-day visit.
Instead prior to his visit 700 civilians were detained, booked under PSA & many shifted to jails outside Kashmir. Such oppressive steps further vitiate an already tense atmosphere. ‘Normalcy acrobatics' are in full swing while reality is denied & obfuscated.— Mehbooba Mufti (@MehboobaMufti) October 23, 2021
PDP chief and former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti alleged that 700 civilians had been detained and charged under the Public Security Act ahead of the Home Minister's visit. "'Normalcy acrobatics' are in full swing while reality is denied & obfuscated," she tweeted.