PM Narendra Modi To Visit Kashmir Valley Today Amid Shutdown

3 July 2014
IANS


Srinagar: Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits the Kashmir Valley on Friday amid a shutdown called by separatists and warnings by Muslim groups not to create a separate enclave for Kashmiri Pandits. Modi will chair a high-level security review meeting at the Badami Bagh headquarters of the army's 15th corps here. He is also to inaugurate a 240 MW hydro-power in the border town of Uri in Baramulla district. He will earlier fly to Jammu to open a 25-km rail link between Katra and Udhampur, providing a direct link to the Mata Vaishno Devi temple with the rest of the country. This will be Modi's first visit to Jammu and Kashmir since he became the prime minister May 26 at the head of a government of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which bitterly opposes any special status for Kashmir. On Thursday, the Majlis Itihad-e-Milat, a group of religious groups, warned the central government against moves to create separate settlements for migrant Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir Valley. But it said the Pandits were welcome to return and settle at their ancestral places. 'Kashmiri Pandits are an important part of our society. They are welcome to return to the valley and settle at their ancestral places or any other place alongside their Muslim brothers. 'But the move to create separate settlements for them will have serious consequences,' Mufti Bashir-ud-Din, the group's president, told the media. Mufti Bashir-ud-Din is also the Grand Mufti of Kashmir. Majlis Itihad-e-Milat is a representative forum of about a dozen religious groups including the Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat-e-Ahli Hadees. The Grand Mufti said 850 hectares of land had been identified to settle the Pandits, a move that would split the Kashmiri society on religious lines. Separatists have called a shutdown in the Kashmir Valley Friday. Kashmiri separatist leaders, including Syed Ali Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq, Muhammad Yasin Malik and Shabir Ahmad Shah, have all called for a the shutdown. Sharp shooters, barricades, luggage checks and more - the security forces are taking no chances in Srinagar and other parts of the valley on the eve of Modi's visit. Sharpshooters have also been posted at vantage points in the city and some other towns of the Valley to keep round the clock vigil at such places. Modi's security review meeting will also be attended by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, GOC-n-C army's Northern Command Lt Gen D.S. Hooda, Director General of Police K. Rajendra Kumar and other agencies. The 87-km highway from Srinagar to Uri is being secured by over 2,000 security personnel though the same would not be used by the prime minister to reach Uri town. 'Modi will fly to Uri but his entourage and other officials will be using the highway to reach Uri,' an official said here. The visit also comes amid calls by some in the BJP to scrap article 370 of the Indian constitution that gives special status to the state. Chief Minister Abdullah said Tuesday that the Kashmir problem cannot be resolved through economic packages. He cautioned those trying to rake up a controversy over article 370. 'I have repeatedly highlighted that Jammu and Kashmir cannot be equated with other states of India. 'We cannot be browbeaten by money and muscle power. We have withstood all challenges in the past and will do it again in the future', Abdullah said.