Modi makes first visit to Indian-administered Kashmir since special status removal – World

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During his first visit to the disputed region’s main city since its semi-autonomy was cancelled in 2019, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated that he is committed to “winning hearts in [occupied] Kashmir.” His government had previously stripped the Muslim-majority territory of its special constitutional status nearly five years ago, dividing it into two territories directly ruled from New Delhi. Despite the move being well-received in India, it sparked anger in the heavily militarized region.

“I am working hard to win your hearts, and my attempt to keep winning your hearts will continue,” Modi declared at a public rally in Srinagar. He emphasized the importance of [occupied] Jammu and Kashmir, calling it the country’s crown. Modi took pride in cancelling the region’s special status and removing protections for its permanent residents, citing the limitations previously imposed by “dynastic politics.”

To bolster the economy and tourism in Indian-occupied Kashmir and other areas, Modi also remotely inaugurated several development projects. The visit coincides with India’s upcoming national elections and a claim by Modi’s government that its direct rule has brought “peace and development” to the region. However, critics argue that civil liberties and press freedom have been severely curtailed.

Security was tight during the visit, with armed forces patrolling the streets and river. Schools were closed, and government employees were encouraged to attend the rally. Former chief minister of Indian-occupied Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, accused the government of coercing crowds to attend the event.

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