Temples, schools to be re-opened in Kashmir: Minister

Bengaluru: Hundreds of temples and schools that remained shut down in the Kashmir Valley over the years would be re-opened for public use as normalcy returns in the strife-torn northern border state, said a Central minister on Monday.

“A survey will be conducted in the Valley to identify the temples and schools, assess their condition to revive and restore them for their use as they remained shut or abandoned over the last 20 years as normal life remained disrupted due to terror activities,” Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy told reporters here.

Defending the abrogation of the Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution that gave a special status to the border state but deprived its people from benefits, Reddy said even several cinema theatres remained closed for years, as the state was under the grip of terrorism and separatism.

“An estimated 50,000 temples have remained shut for over the last two-three decades due to unrest in the Valley. As normalcy returns across the region, they will all be renovated and thrown open to the people from across the country,” Reddy told reporters here at the BJP party’s state unit office in the city.

He said development of the state would be put on fast track once the normalcy was restored. With the formation of two Union Territories Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and Ladakh, Reddy said, state-owned lands would be de-notified and allotted to prospective investors for opening up manufacturing units, educational institutions and services to spur growth and provide jobs to thousands of people.

As part of its commitment to involve the locals in the socio-economic development of the region, 5 people from every village will be selected and given government job.

“A special drive will also be launched to recruit the state’s youth into the three defence services. More universities will be opened and tourism infrastructure enhanced to attract more tourists from across the country and overseas,” noted Reddy.

Noting that the government was as much committed as the people are for Kashmir, the minister said recovery of the Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) was very much on the government’s radar.

“The whole country is for taking back the PoK territory as it is a part of the Valley and the undivided region. It is on our agenda. We are ready to give up our life to regain the PoK,” said Reddy.

Elections to block development councils in the two UTs will be held by this year-end and elections to the J&K state at the earliest.

“The newly-elected sarpanchs (heads of local bodies) will be trained to take up development works in the region soon,” said Reddy.