Jammu and Kashmir's identity was "buried on January 19, 1990", Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in parliament today, lashing out at critics of his government's controversial move on August 5 last year to withdraw special status to the former state under Article 370 and bifurcate it into two Union Territories - that of Jammu and Kashmir, and that of Ladakh.
"Most people had said Kashmir will be on fire if Article 370 is removed. We are being questioned for detaining some political leaders (but) on August 5, Mehbooba Mufti said India has betrayed Kashmir and we would have been better with deciding otherwise in 1947," the Prime Minister said today.
"Omar Abdullah said removing Article 370 will separate Kashmir from India. Farooq Abdullah said if Article 370 is removed no one will unfurl national flag in Kashmir. How can we side with them?" the PM asked amid vociferous protests in parliament.
"Who made Kashmir only about land grabbing? Who made Kashmir's identity only about bombs and guns? Can anyone forget that dark night of January? In reality, Kashmiri identity is closely linked with harmony," he declared.
The centre's decision on Article 370, taken in August last year, sparked massive protests from the opposition, who protested the "unconstitutional" and "undemocratic" actions of the centre.
Kashmir's mainstream political leaders have been jailed at secret locations.— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 6, 2019
This is unconstitutional & undemocratic.
It's also short sighted and foolish because it will allow terrorists to fill the leadership vaccum created by GOI.
The imprisoned leaders must be released.
These actions included the detention of hundreds of opposition leaders - including three former Chief Ministers in PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti and National Conference leaders Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah.
All have been detained since August 5, with Farooq Abdullah, 82, charged under the strict Public Safety Act.
In addition, to control backlash against its decision the centre also cut mobile and broadband internet across the former state, resulting in one of the world's longest internet shutdowns, banned protests and large gatherings, and deployed thousands of soldiers.
These measures have been met with concern by an international community that has repeatedly called for the release of detained leaders and repeal of the communications ban.
Last month the Supreme Court ordered the J&K administration to review all restrictive orders, including the banning of protests and the cutting of internet.
January 19 is remembered as ''Exodus Day'' by the lakhs of Kashmiri Pandits who fled the Kashmir Valley three decades ago, abandoning homes and lives in the face of rising violence and tensions.
In September last year, a month after Article 370 was lifted, a delegation of Kashmiri Pandits met the Prime Minister in Houston - during his "Howdy, Modi!" tour - to thank him.
The PM told them: "You have suffered a lot, but the world is changing. We have to move ahead together and build a new Kashmir".