- Last month, government ended special status to Jammu and Kashmir
- The move will end discrimination against women and Dalits, PM said
- "Howdy, Modi!" was organised by Indian community in the US energy hub
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday championed his government's decision to scrap Article 370, Jammu and Kashmir's decades-old special status, in his address to the Indian community in Houston, Texas, even calling for a standing ovation for parliamentarians who approved the move last month.
"We bid farewell to another thing that has been a big challenge for 70 years... Article 370 (of the constitution)," he said, drawing loud cheers from the audience at the "Howdy, Modi!" event organised by the Indian community in the US energy hub.
"Article 370 had deprived the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh from development and rights. Terrorists and separatists were using it to their advantage. Now the people of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh have the same rights as every Indian," he said.
The move, which came in the form of a presidential order last month, will "end discrimination against women and Dalits", the Prime Minister said.
"Both houses of our parliament discussed the move for hours, and it was telecast live across the world. Even though we don't have majority in the upper house, both the houses cleared the decision with two-thirds majority," he said, adding, "I request you to give a standing ovation to the parliamentarians of India."
Without naming the country, PM Modi lashed out at Pakistan for its opposition to the move. "The move has bothered some people who can't even manage their own country," he said, in apparent reference to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has raised the issue at various international forums. PM Modi's charged attack was received with loud cheers from the 50,000-strong audience in front of a battery of US leaders including President Donald Trump.
Last month, the government ended special status to Jammu and Kashmir and split it into two union territories, saying the move would help ensure that people of the state get the same constitutional benefits as the rest of the country. To prevent any backlash, the centre also imposed massive security restrictions and took measures that included arresting politicians, posting extra troops and blocking phone and internet lines.
Some of those curbs have been relaxed, but mobile communications in the Kashmir valley are largely still blocked, and several leaders, including former chief ministers of the state are still under house arrest.
The Supreme Court last week said the government should restore normal life in Jammu and Kashmir as soon as possible. The opposition has also criticised the government for the shutdown which entered its 49th day on Monday.
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