NEW DELHI: India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Tuesday for an end to the violence in Kashmir, promising jobs for young people, in his first comments since deadly clashes began over a month ago, even as Indian forces arrested more than a thousand protesters in Indian-controlled Kashmir in an attempt to stem violent demonstrations in the Himalayan region.
Inspector-General Syed Javaid Mujtaba Gillani said the arrests were made over the past two weeks in a bid to end a month of protests in which more than 55 civilians and two policemen have been killed and thousands injured.
Much of Indian-administered Kashmir has been under a curfew since protests broke out over the death on July 8 of a popular young rebel leader in a gunfight with security forces.
“We want to create jobs and employment for the youth of Kashmir. The entire country is with you,” said Modi.
The prime minister has faced criticism for failing to speak out about the unrest, which has abated but shows no signs of ending. Two police officers have also been killed.
“Peace, unity and harmony in Kashmir is everyone’s priority,” Modi said in a speech broadcast on national television, blaming “a few misguided people” for the violence.
“It pains me sometimes that some young men, who should have a laptop, a volleyball, cricket bat… have been given stones in their hands.”
“This may benefit some people’s political agendas but what about the innocent youth?” Modi added.
Many of the young men who came out onto the streets in the wake of the rebel’s death threw stones at security forces, an increasingly common form of protest in the area.
Separatist leader Mirwaiz Omar Farooq said Modi’s comments downplayed the strength of feeling in the region.
“It is not a movement of a few people who are throwing stones, educated youth are picking up guns for their basic political rights. In Kashmir, it is a mass movement for our right of self-determination,” he told AFP.