Srinagar: Governor Satya Pal Malik on Thursday assured the people of Jammu and Kashmir that their identity was not at stake following abrogation of the state's special status guaranteed under Article 370 of the Constitution.
After hoisting the national flag on the 73rd Independence Day at Sher-i-Kashmir Stadium, Malik said the "historic changes" will open a new door of development and help various communities promote their languages and cultures in Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
The function was also attended by National Security Advisory Ajit Doval.
"I want to assure people of Jammu and Kashmir that their identity is neither at stake nor has been tampered with. Indian Constitution allows many regional identities to prosper... Nobody should be bothered that their identity will finish because of the steps taken by the Central government... This step can be used to promote language, culture and identities within the state," he said in the last Independence Day speech of a Governor before the state turns into a Union Territory on October 31.
On 31 October, two union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh — will come into being with each governed by a lt governor.
Home Minister Amit Shah has assured that Jammu and Kashmir's statehood will be restored after the situation normalises.
Malik said it is surprising that in all the previous elections, focus of people was not brought on issues of 'Roti, Kapda aur Makaan (employment, clothing and housing)'.
"In the last 70 years, people were led astray from the main issues of economic development, peace and prosperity. Instead of paying attention to these issues people were misled on issues which are irrelevant to their lives," he said.
Scrapping provisions of Article 370 and annulment of Article 35A, which prohibited non-state subjects from purchasing land and getting government jobs in Jammu and Kashmir, have generated concerns, particularly in Jammu region, that state subjects will now have to compete with "outsiders" for jobs.
A few days ago, senior BJP leader and speaker of the last state assembly Nirmal Singh said they would want a safeguard like a domicile certificate "to protect interests of locals".
He cited the examples of Himachal Pradesh and Punjab which have laws on these issues.
Calling on the youth to build a new state, Malik said, "You have excelled in studies and sports. You should now come forward and participate in the political process for building a new Kashmir."
Malik said local tribes which did not have political representation will now get it under the new system.
"Kashmiri, Dogri, Gojri, Pahari, Balti, Sheena and other languages will have opportunity to thrive in the new set up. Various tribes and castes in the state who have not had political representation will also find proper representation," the governor said.
He said his government is committed to the safe return of Kashmiri Pandits to the Valley.
"I firmly believe that the complete return of Kashmiri migrants to the Valley is possible only with the active support and co-operation of all stake-holders including the civil society of the Valley who share a social and cultural bond with the Kashmiri migrants," he added.
After unfurling the flag, Malik inspected the parade of para-military forces and Jammu and Kashmir Police led by SSP Manzoor Ahmed Dalal.
Prominent mainstream leaders were not present at the Independence Day function as they have been detained as a precautionary measure. Second-rung BJP leaders, however, were among those sitting in the stands during Malik's address.
Unprecedented security arrangements were made in the city. All roads leading to the stadium were sealed but people with special passes were allowed to proceed to the venue.
This year, no school contingents took part in the Independence Day parade or the cultural programme that followed it.
A group of enthusiastic people visiting Kashmir shouted "Vande Matram" and "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" at the stadium.
Celebrating the Independence Day in Ladakh, people danced and sang with their lone MP Jamyang Tsering Namgya, 24. Banners like "UT of Ladakh celebrates its 1st Independence Day" were hung on roads of the picturesque Leh town.
In Srinagar, Malik said the government has a zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism and sustained efforts by armed forces have ensured the defeat of terrorists.
"We have a policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism and our security forces are proactively carrying out operations against terrorists. Terrorists have accepted defeat because determination of our security forces," he said.
There is a sharp decline in terror recruitment and incidents of stone pelting after Friday prayers have virtually stopped, he said.
"Misguided youths are returning to mainstream. We have adopted multifaceted policies to stop infiltration from across the border and it is reaping rich dividends," he said.
Talking about his one-year administration, Malik said he has tried to empower people through grassroots democracy.
He said Urban Local Body elections in October and the second-ever Panchayat polls in November-December were held after a long gap and people came out in large numbers to sent a clear message to terrorists and separatists.
Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy and Kashmiri apple and other fruits have already created a niche for themselves, Malik said adding that the investment summit proposed later this year will focus on investment and expertise in these areas.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.