The identity of the people of Jammu and Kashmir is not at stake after the abrogation of the state's special status by the Centre, Governor Satya Pal Malik said on Thursday after hoisting the national flag on the 73rd Independence Day in Srinagar today. The event was also attended by National Security Advisory Ajit Doval.
Terming the changes introduced by the Centre as "historical", Mr Malik said they will open new avenues of development and help various communities promote their languages and cultures in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.
"In the last 70 years people were lead astray from the main issues of economic development, peace and prosperity," he said at the Sher-i-Kashmir stadium in Srinagar.
Mr Malik said the Centre's decision will enable good governance, bring self-reliance and employment opportunities to people Jammu and Kashmir and most importantly the feeling of unity and equality with the rest of the country.
"I want to assure people of Jammu and Kashmir that their identity is neither at stake nor has it been tampered with. Indian Constitution allows many regional identities to prosper," he said.
Mr Malik said local tribes, which did not have political representation, will now get a voice under the new system. He added that his government is committed to the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits.
He said the government has a zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism and sustained efforts by armed forces have ensured the defeat of terrorists.
Mr Malik said Urban Local Body elections in October and the second-ever Panchayat polls in November-December were held after a long gap and people came out in large numbers to send a clear message to terrorists and separatists.
No prominent mainstream leader was at the Independence Day celebration.
Unprecedented security arrangements were made for the event . All roads leading to the stadium were sealed but people with special passes were allowed to proceed to the venue.
This year, no school contingents took part in the Independence Day parade or the cultural programme that followed it.