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Modi has ‘nothing to offer’ to Kashmiris: separatist leader

A separatist leader in Indian-controlled Kashmir accused New Delhi on Sunday of having “nothing to offer” to the disputed territory, dismissing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit as nothing to be happy about.

“If the Indian government is really keen to reach out to the people of Kashmir it should suspend all military operations and stop celebrating the killing of young innocent people. Development does not mean anything if there is no peace and dialogue,” Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chief of Srinagar's grand mosque, told Arab News as Modi made his trip.

Modi went to Leh, Jammu and Kashmir and announced new projects including universities and hospitals. He also laid the foundation stone of two research and healthcare institutions in Jammu and Srinagar.

“Infrastructure is the center point of development,” Modi said in a speech during his trip. “My objective is to win the hearts of the people of Jammu and Kashmir through development.”

Empty streets and shuttered businesses greeted his visit as separatist leaders and activists were either detained or placed under house arrest to prevent attacks and protests.

Kashmir has been rocked by renewed rebel attacks and public protests in recent years. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the uprising and the ensuing Indian military crackdown.

India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim it in its entirety. Rebels have been fighting Indian rule since 1989, demanding Indian-controlled Kashmir be united either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

“To show our resentment against the draconian policies of the central government, the leadership in the Kashmir valley has called for a complete shutdown on Sunday,” Farooq said. “People want the abolition of draconian laws and toning down of the arrests rather than the rhetoric of development. You cannot offer blood money to the people of Kashmir."

Dr. Hina Bhat, from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said development was a priority for the region.

“The development of Jammu and Kashmir should not stop if there is no dialogue. Unless Kashmir develops, it cannot survive. The rest of the country is moving ahead economically and we cannot keep Kashmir away from the basic necessities of life and what it deserves,” she told Arab News.

The BJP wanted dialogue with the separatists, she said, but Pakistan was not allowing it. The separatists were puppets of Pakistan, which was uninterested in the development of Kashmir or its residents, she added.

Kashmir-based analyst Dr. Siddiq Wahid said talking about development without addressing the real disputes in Kashmir was “just eye wash.”

“The BJP agenda in Kashmir is clear,” he told Arab News. “It’s a hard-line muscular strategy which does not leave any scope for dialogue.”

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