NEW DELHI: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a national broadcast on Thursday to justify India’s unilateral dissolution of special constitutional rights accorded to the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Mr Modi rallied support for his controversial move among the youth of the erstwhile state, claiming that their forebears were exploited for decades — through the special status — by a few political families for their own profit and Pakistan used the status as a weapon against India.

He promised to open jobs for the youth in the security forces and urged private and public sector industries to invest in the region that has now been split into two Union Territories — of Ladakh, without an assembly, and Jammu and Kashmir, which will have an elected assembly with limited rights, more or less like the Delhi assembly. He said it would not be very long before the assembly was set up.

Meanwhile, creating a new administration in both the Union Territories would also bring new jobs. Mr Modi did not say why his government could not tweak the special provisions or paint the rosy picture without breaking a solemn oath to the Kashmiris made by the founders of India’s constitution.

Indian top court declines to list a petition to turn down the presidential order that created new political order ignoring legal questions

The new arrangement means that the right to deal with real estate, thought to be a key attraction for removing Jammu and Kashmir’s special constitutional covenants, would lie with the central government. Leading businessmen close to the government have cheered the move.

Mr Modi also steered clear of the fact that the dismantling of the Muslim majority state was an old communal commitment of the Hindu revivalist Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh of which he is an ardent follower.

His address came as the Supreme Court declined to urgently list a petition to turn down the presidential order that created the new political order with many legal questions it raises.

He promised to the women in particular greater social and inheritance rights. India’s labour laws would extend to the workers, while Dalits and Kashmiri tribes would benefit from the change.

The region was called ‘paradise on earth’ and it would claim the description more truthfully with the focus on development and prosperity.

“This is what a majority of the people want, and only a handful of them are resisting the change,” he claimed.

Indian movies were routinely filmed in the scenic lands of Kashmir, and they would return to showcase its beauty, including cinema from southern states. The people of the new territories would robustly fight terrorism, he was confident. Prosperity for the region was an essential element in world peace, he said.

Mr Modi wished the Muslims of the region happy Eid, and said all arrangements would be made to allow the celebrations to be observed on Monday.

In a statement, India’s external affairs ministry asked Pakistan not to interfere in what it claimed was an internal matter, AFP reported.

The statement read: “Seeking to interfere in that jurisdiction by invoking an alarmist vision of the region will never succeed.”

About Pakistan’s announcement that it was downgrading its diplomatic relations with its neighbour, the ministry said: “The government of India regrets the steps announced by Pakistan... and would urge that country to review them so that normal channels for diplomatic communications are preserved.”

The diplomatic spat came as a petition was filed with India’s Supreme Court by an activist challenging the curfew in occupied Kashmir, which was imposed to suppress any unrest in response to the loss of autonomy.

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2019