NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today reached out to strife-hit Kashmiris, saying abuses and bullets will not resolve their problems but embracing them will, as he praised his government's economic reforms in a wide-ranging Independence Day speech.
In a 56-minute speech, the shortest of the four times he has addressed the nation, he also rebuked those who resort to violence in the name of religion, adding that casteism and communalism are like poison.
Wearing his trademark half-sleeves kurta, churidar pajama and a Rajasthani headgear, Modi spoke from the ramparts of the Red Fort to thousands of spectators including schoolchildren dressed like Lord Krishna, as well as crores of television audience watching the live telecast of his speech across the nation.
"Na gaali se, na goli se, parivartan hoga gale lagaane se... samasya suljhegi har Kashmiri ko gale lagane se (Kashmir probem cannot be resolved by either bullets or by abuses. It can be resolved by embracing Kashmiris)," he said, referring to the ongoing violence in the Kashmir valley.
Only a handful of separatists, he said, were resorting to "various tactics" to create problems in the state. But the government is committed to making Kashmir a paradise once again, the prime minister said.
Making it clear that there will be no softness towards terrorism, he said India's security is a top priority for the government, and the surgical strike had underscored this.
But most of his speech was devoted to the economy as he pointed out the various reforms carried out by his government, including demonetisation, the implementation of GST and the crackdown on black money.
"Those who have looted the nation and looted the poor are not able to sleep peacefully today," the prime minister said, vowing to continue the crackdown.
He said over Rs 1.75 lakh crore has been deposited in banks since the note-ban, and more than 18 lakh people with disproportionate income are under government scrutiny.
He said demonetisation of old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes last November had helped bring over Rs 3 lakh crore of here to unaccounted wealth into the banking system.
Referring to recent incidents of natural calamities in various parts of the country as also the death of children at a state-run hospital in Uttar Pradesh, he said sympathies of the entire nation are with the affected families.
"Many parts of the country faced natural calamities in the recent past. Children died at a hospital. The entire nation is with them," Modi said.