Tonk (Rajasthan): Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday denounced the attacks on Kashmiris in the wake of the Pulwama terror attack, saying such things should not happen in the country as the fight is against those who sponsor terrorism, no those suffering from it.
He also said that the armed forces have been given free hand to deal with terrorists and that the time has come to test if Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan is a man of his word.
"Our fight is for Kashmir, not against Kashmiris," he said in his first response to the attacks on Kashmiri businessmen and students, in wake of the February 14 terror strike when a Jaish-e-Mohammad operative rammed an explosive-laden SUV into a Central Reserve Police Force convoy on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, killing 40 CRPF men on the spot.
Addressing the Vijay Sankalp Sabha in this Rajasthan town, Modi said Kashmir should be freed of terrorism as its people were suffering.
"We want our sisters and brothers of Kashmir to be rid of terrorism. Kashmiris have suffered the most due to terrorism, and the rest of the country must stand in their support. Our fight is against those who sponsor terrorism.
"Our fight is for Kashmir, not against Kashmir and not against Kashmiris. Kashmiri youths are also troubled by terrorists. They are also ready to fight against them. If we want to win the fight, we should not make mistakes," he said, adding that his government will fulfil the dreams of Kashmiris.
The Prime Minister cited the Amarnath Yatra to emphasise how Kashmiri youths look after Hindu pilgrims.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah welcomed Modi's remarks and hoped the "forces targeting Kashmiris will stop in their tracks". Abdullah as well another former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had been criticising the Prime Minister for his silence on the attacks on Kashmiris.
With India linking Pakistan with the Pulwama terror attack as the JeM is based there, Modi warned the neighbouring country that India would no longer "sit quietly".
Referring to his telephonic conversation with Imran Khan after his election victory last year, he said: "I did call Pakistan's new Prime Minister to congratulate him after his win, following the basic protocol.
"I told him that we should join hands to eradicate poverty and to fight illiteracy. Answering this, Khan said that he's a Pathan's child and hence he never lies."
"There is need to test this. We will see if he proves true to his words or not," Modi said, adding he had conveyed that there have been enough fighting between India and Pakistan with India winning each of them with Pakistan getting nothing and the future too portends the same.
He also said "we shall never sit quietly as we are well aware of techniques to kill terrorism" and that peace cannot prevail in the world till the "factory of terror" In Pakistan continues running.
"Now, if it is my destiny to end this factory, so let it be. This stands over and above party politics," he said, adding that soon after the Pulwama attack, everyone has seen how his government are giving it back to Pakistan which "is facing a tough time ahead".
"This is the new India...There is consensus in the world against terrorism. We are moving forward with strength to punish the perpetrators of terrorism. Stern action against those who live in India and push separatism has been taken and will be taken," he said.
He said that Indian soldiers had dealt with a key perpetrator of the Pulwama terror attack and urged people to have faith on soldiers and his government.
Modi also hit out at those who "stay in India but speak the language of Pakistan".
"These are the same people who went to Pakistan and said 'Do whatever you want, but remove Modi from power'. These are also the same people who failed to retaliate against the terror attack reported in Mumbai," he alleged.
The rally was also addressed by former Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje.