Delhi Understands Kashmiris’ Sentiments: Sonia Gandhi

Delhi Understands Kashmiris’ Sentiments: Sonia Gandhi

26 June 2013
Greater Kashmir
Muddasir Ali

Banihal: UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi Wednesday said New Delhi understood sentiments of the people of Jammu and Kashmir and democracy in India offered solution to all problems. “Even as we do understand that there are genuine concerns, but feel that issues can be resolved in a democratic manner through negotiation and dialogue. I want to tell people of this state that we understand their sentiments and believe that our democracy has a scope that we can solve all their problems,” Gandhi said. She was addressing a public gathering here after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurated the Qazigund-Banihal rail link which connects Kashmir with Jammu through 11-klimometer Pir Panchal tunnel, longest in India. The Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and several Ministers from New Delhi and Jammu and Kashmir were present on the occasion. Gandhi who is President of Congress said a “new era of hope” has dawned on Jammu and Kashmir. “We need to recognize this hope and strengthen it,” she said. Gandhi said some events took place in the past which were “painful”. Day before the arrival of Singh and Gandhi in Kashmir on Monday militants killed eight army personnel in an attack on an army convoy near Hyderpora here. Earlier last week militants killed two policemen during daytime near busy Hari Singh High Street here. Gandhi said people in J&K wanted to move forward and build a bright future - one based on secularism, democracy and inclusive economic development. “I want to tell them we will work hand-in-hand with them for their bright future,” she told the gathering. Gandhi said under the leadership of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, J&K was witnessing “change” and development was visible on the ground. She said participation of large number of people in Panchayat Polls in 2011 proved that they are fed up with bloodshed and want peace in J&K. She said Kashmir’s younger generation wanted better education and employment opportunities and women of Kashmir wanted to become self reliant. “That is why so many schemes like Himayat and Udaan have been rolled out in the state and some other schemes were implemented to strengthen Halka Panchayats,” she said. Stressing on the need for empowerment of grassroots institutions of governance in J&K Gandhi called for early elections to Urban Local Bodies in the state. “These elections should be conducted in time and the institutions must be handed over the powers and empowered economically,” she said. Elections to the ULBs in the state were due in February 2010 after the previous elected bodies completed their term. The last elections to the bodies were held after a gap of 26 years. Jammu and Kashmir has around 87 Municipal Councils and Committees. There are also 68 Municipal wards in Srinagar and 71 in Jammu. On Banihal-Qazigund rail line, Gandhi said some years ago, the project through Pir Panchal mountain looked like a dream. “That dream has been realized and Kashmir has been connected with Jammu and rest of India,” she said. She said today marks an important day in the history of J&K and a beginning of a new chapter in economic empowerment of people of state. Gandhi said the rail link would help Kashmir to remain connected to outside world in all seasons. She said UPA believes in overall development and providing economic opportunities to people from downtrodden and far-flung sections. This has been the principal stand of Congress since the time of Jawaharlal Nehru and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is taking it forward through his policies. Gandhi stated UPA invested lot of funds in providing connectivity to the state through development of roads, bridges, highways and tunnels. She recalled two examples- Mughal Road which connects Kashmir with Poonch and construction of tunnels and highway between Kashmir and Ladakh. “Our focus is also the completion of rural road projects in J&K to provide connectivity to people in all seasons,” she said. Later Gandhi released a book titled “Pir-Panchal Railway Tunnel – a dream Realized” compiled by project team to commemorate the completion of this engineering marvel which gives an insider perspective to the challenging task of construction of Pir-Panchal Railway Tunnel through mighty Himalayas. The Governor NN Vohra, Union Minister for Health Ghulam Nabi Azad, Union Minister of Railways Mallikarjun Kharge, President State Congress Saifuddin Soz and National Conference MP Dr Mehboob Beg also attended the function.