Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today that elections could soon be held in Jammu and Kashmir, pending completion of the ongoing delimitation process, and that his government was "committed" to ensuring the union territory had "its own chief minister and ministers".
Addressing the nation from the ramparts of Delhi's iconic Red Fort during 74th Independence Day celebrations, the Prime Minister also said the past year had been a "journey of development" for J&K and had seen "a life of dignity" for refugees there.
"Delimitation process is underway in Jammu and Kashmir. Once it is completed, an election will be held. Jammu and Kashmir will have its own chief minister and ministers. We are committed to this," PM Modi said during his speech - a seventh straight Independence Day address and a second since the BJP-led NDA swept to power in last year's general election.
"This is a year of a new journey of development for J&K. This is the year of the rights received by women and the Dalits in J&K. This year is also the year of a life of dignity for refugees in J&K," he declared.
This is also the PM's second Independence Day speech since his government withdrew special status from J&K and bifurcated the former state into two union territories.
Last year, three days after Article 370 was suspended and a week before India's 73rd Independence Day, PM Modi said J&K would not remain a union territory for long and that his government wanted elections to be held.
Describing it - suspension of Article 370 - as a "step taken with a lot of thought", the Prime Minister said: "We want elections to be held. People will soon get a chance to choose their elected representatives. They will choose their MLAs, their ministers and their Chief Minister".
Jammu and Kashmir has been without an elected government since the BJP-PDP coalition fell in 2018. Meanwhile, panchayat polls scheduled for March this year were postponed in February over law and order concerns.
The contentious decision on Article 370 of the Constitution was preceded by the detention of mainstream political leaders, restrictions on movement and flying in tens of thousands of troops. It also saw a communications ban that included suspension of high-speed internet.
The government said the measures were taken to prevent violence. Union Home Minister Amit Shah later pointed out that no bloodshed had taken place and "not one bullet had been fired".
Prime Minister Modi's Independence Day address today also included a veiled warning to Pakistan and China over border issues in J&K and Ladakh. India's soldiers have given a fitting reply to anyone who challenges the country's sovereignty "from LoC to LAC", he said.