Development and security will top Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agenda on his visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Friday, which comes just a month after he was sworn-in.
The Prime Minister is making a short one-day visit, but touching both Jammu and the Kashmir Valley, with stops in Jammu, Katra, Srinagar and Uri, inaugurating a railway line, a power project, addressing a gathering in Katra and addressing the troops in Srinagar. However, there will be no political outreach as in the past. There are no official meetings with the Chief Minister, his cabinet, or any public gatherings in the Valley. Officials called the visit “strictly business.”
Speaking to The Hindu, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said it was just as well “politics was kept out of this visit.” As a result, no mention is expected of the controversies over Article 370, or the Hurriyat’s objection to the proposal to rehabilitate Kashmiri Pandits in segregated colonies, which they referred to as “divisive.” However, Mr. Abdullah denied there was any proposal for segregation.
The Prime Minister’s agenda isn’t the only departure from the past. He will be stopping in Srinagar for a couple of hours only, to address a ‘Sainik Sammelan’, speaking to a group of soldiers posted at various places in the State. He will also hold a security review meeting with corp commanders.
Ahead of the visit, extra security personnel have been deployed in the State and the border at Uri, where he will go, has a heightened level of alert. Sources confirmed to The Hindu that the border alert was at the DGMO level, given the incidents of firing in the past few weeks.
Overnight there was firing in the Mendhar sector along the border, but officials denied any injuries. Inspector-General of Police in Jammu Rajesh Kumar told The Hindu that reports of militants trying to infiltrate and Army personnel being injured were incorrect.
Despite the security, traffic moved freely in Srinagar and officials said they had given orders that common man and pilgrims in the State should not be inconvenienced. “Amarnath yatris will proceed even on Friday and there are no restrictions on markets in the city,” said Director-General of Police K. Rajendra. However, a bandh call by the Hurriyat leadership and other separatist groups and Friday prayers will require extra policing, officials said.
Speaking to The Hindu in the tourist centre of Dalgate, traders seemed unconcerned about the visit or the call for a bandh.
The PM begins his morning by landing in Jammu and then proceeding to Katra where he will inaugurate a railway line to Udhampur, which is expected to take off the pressure on pilgrims heading to the Vaishno Devi temple above Katra.
Officials said Mr. Modi is not expected to visit the shrine on this trip. He will address a gathering of 2,000 to 3,000 invitees there before proceeding to Srinagar and then to Uri, where he will inaugurate the second phase of a 240MW hydel project that will supply power to the rest of the country.