Jawahar-Sheikh, Rajiv-Farooq, Now Rahul-Omar Bonhomie

Jawahar-Sheikh, Rajiv-Farooq, Now Rahul-Omar Bonhomie

4 October 2012
Greater Kashmir
Muddasir Ali

Z-Morh (Sonamarg): Congress General Secretary Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said he wanted to join hands with the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to make Jammu and Kashmir part of India’s progress. “I am myself from a Kashmiri family and want to have lifelong relations with people of Jammu and Kashmir,” said Gandhi after attending the foundation laying ceremony of Z-Morh tunnel here on Srinagar-Leh highway. The tunnel would provide all weather connectivity to Ladakh with Kashmir. Gandhi said he has two goals for Kashmir. “First, I want to establish permanent bond with you and understand your problems deeply,” he said. He recalled the bonhomie between then Prime Minister of India and his great grandfather, late Jawahar Lal Nehru and National Conference founder and Omar’s grandfather Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. “Likewise I want to join hands with Omar and strengthen our relations,” he said. “I want Kashmiri youth should become part of growing India.” The statement from Gandhi came few days after the media reports about tussle between Gandhi and Omar over empowerment of Panchayats in J&K - a report vehemently denied by both Congress and National Conference leaders including Omar. Gandhi had even criticized the state government for ‘not empowering’ Panchayats in J&K. While Congress is demanding that 73rd and 74th amendments of Indian Constitution should be implemented in J&K, National Conference has categorically rejected any such move. A delegation of Panchayat members also met Gandhi at New Delhi last week following killing of two Panchayat members last fortnight. However, Gandhi did not speak over the issue on the occasion. He arrived at the venue from Ladakh late afternoon as the area witnessed moderate snowfall and rainfall for 10 to 20 minutes. Besides, Omar, Union Cabinet Ministers, Dr CP Joshi and Dr Farooq Abdullah, AICC general secretary in charge J&K, Mohan Prakash, state Congress chief Prof Saif-ud-Din Soz, J&K Ministers including Tara Chand and Mian Altaf were present on the occasion. Gandhi said India was developing and every state was enjoying the share of the progress in different areas like education, health and economy. “These things should happen here also and Jammu and Kashmir also deserves all round development and economic welfare.” The Congress leader said he visited Ladakh last year and was informed that the region remains cut off in winter. “This tunnel (Z-Morh) is first steps toward connecting Ladakh with Kashmir throughout the year and the next step will be construction of Zojila tunnel,” Gandhi said. The Government of India has approved the State Government’s proposal of boring tunnels at Z-Morh and Zojila Pass to make Ladakh accessible throughout the year. The 6.5 km long Z-Morh tunnel between Sonamarg and Gagangir is 2-lane along with parallel escape tunnel and is estimated to cost Rs 2716 crore. The project is expected to be completed in August 2018. Construction of 13 km long Zojila tunnel, about 22 kilometers from Z-Morh tunnel, is envisaged to provide all weather connectivity to Ladakh region. The 2-lane tunnel is likely to cost over Rs 5500 crores. “This is sign of development,” he said. “We want Kashmiri youth should be part of the development and your problems of education and health should be solved,” Gandhi said. Rahul said he would be visiting Kashmir regularly to understand problems faced by people of Jammu and Kashmir. “I want to listen to you and understand your problems,” Gandhi said. “I will keep coming to Kashmir.” RAHUL SPEAK * I am a Kashmiri * I want Kashmiri youth to become part of growing India * I want to understand your pain * I want to have lifelong relations with JK people * I extend my hand to Omar like Jawaharlal Nehru extended it to Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah