No bulletproof shield while speaking in Baramulla which was once a militancy hotspot, a visit to downtown Srinagar in a first for a union home minister in recent times, and business as usual at Lal Chowk with no strike or hartal — these were the big takeaways from Amit Shah’s visit to Jammu and Kashmir.
Like in Srinagar during his visit last year to J&K, Amit Shah got the bulletproof shield removed during his public address in Baramulla on Thursday. This was part of the messaging that things were normal in the Valley now on the front of terrorism and the home minister was also seen briefly mingling with the crowd at his public meeting.
What also caught everyone’s attention was that Lal Chowk and other areas of Srinagar were open during the home minister’s visit, in a departure from the past when calls for strike were given during such high-profile visits from Delhi and shop shutters were downed. In fact, the entire Kashmir Valley was open during Shah’s visit.
Shah’s visit to Gurdwara Chatti Patshahi in downtown Srinagar also is a significant move as this is the first time that a union home minister was in the Rainawari area, which has been notorious for stone-pelting and grenade attacks in the past. In 2016, then union home minister Rajnath Singh had visited the Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar.
In his public speeches during his visit to J&K, Shah unequivocally denounced terrorism and stressed that the union territory was on the path of normalcy. “Prime Minister Modi wants separatism and terrorism to end here and Jammu & Kashmir is becoming India’s paradise. I appeal to people to uproot terror from Jammu and Kashmir…Modi government will not tolerate terror at all," Shah said in Baramulla. The minister said that this was earlier a “terrorist hotspot" and now it had become a “tourist hotspot".
“In Kashmir Valley, earlier maximum 6 lakh tourists used to visit every year, whereas this year till now 22 lakh tourists have visited. This has given employment to thousands of youth. Earlier, stones and guns were given in the hands of the youth of the Valley, but today Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given mobiles and laptops to the youth by setting up industries so that the youth can get employment," Shah said in his meeting in Baramulla.
He said people of Kashmir should think with open eyes and open minds as to what good did those who spread terror do to the Valley. “Today all the states of the country are moving forward, Kashmir should also move forward for the same purpose,” Shah said, asking people that if someone in their village supports terrorists, they should explain things to such persons and bring them back into the mainstream, “as terror and terrorism cannot do any good to Kashmir”.