KEVADIYA (Gujarat): Paying glowing tributes to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on National Unity Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday defended the scrapping of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, saying the special status provision only bred terrorism in the erstwhile state .
He also hailed India's unity in diversity, calling it the biggest challenge for the country's enemies.
Attending a function at the Statue of Unity here on Patel's 144th birth anniversary, Modi led the gathering in taking the `national unity pledge' on National Unity Day.
"The new system in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh is not meant to draw a line on the land (to draw a boundary) but to build a strong link of trust," the prime minister said in the wake of the bifurcation of the state into Union Territories which came into existence from October 31.
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Inspired by Patel, his government is working for "emotional, economic and constitutional integration" of the country, without which it would be difficult to imagine a powerful India in the 21st century, he said.
In a swipe at Pakistan, he said those "who cannot win wars" against India are trying to destroy its unity.
"The country took the decision to scrap Article 370 (which provided special status to J&K), which had only given separatism and terrorism to that state," Modi said.
"Over 40,000 people lost their lives in three decades of terrorism," he said, adding it was Patel's inspiration which made him take the decision to revoke Article 370.
The PM said he dedicates the Centre's August 5 decison to scrap the controversial provision of the Constutution "at the feet of" independent India's first home minister.
The prime minister termed Article 370 as a "wall" that separated people.
"That wall was promoting separatism and terrorism. I am here today to humbly tell Sardar Patel that the wall has been demolished," Modi said.
"Patel had once said that had he handled the Kashmir issue, it would not have taken so long to resolve it," Modi said in a veiled swipe at Jawaharlal Nehru, the country's first prime minister whom the ruling BJP often blames for the decades-old Kashmir issue.
"North-East is now moving from separatism to attachment as decades-old problems are nearing resolution," Modi said, referring to his government's initiatives to bring peace to the insurgency-affected region.
Without naming Pakistan, Modi said that some elements are trying to destroy the unity in diversity of India by spreading separatism and terrorism, but even after "trying for centuries, nobody could annihilate us or defeat us".
PM @narendramodi administers National Unity Day Pledge to all the people present at Statue of Unity in Kevadia on the occasion of #RashtriyaEktaDiwas #SardarPatel #SardarVallabhbhaiPatel #RunForUnity pic.twitter.com/GO6sWkM4HH— PIB India (@PIB_India) October 31, 2019
"Unity in diversity is our pride and our identity, the world is surprised by our unity despite so much diversity," Modi said.
"The greatest challenge of the 21st century for our enemies is to destroy this unity in diversity," he said.
"India is different from other countries. We celebrate diversity. We do not see any contradictions in diversity. We see unity in it," he said.
"When we respect traditions and beliefs of different sects and religions, love and attachment (among people) increase," the prime minister said.
When Patel embarked on the mission to merge over 500 princely states into India, "feeling of unity" inspired many rulers to join the Indian union, he said.
"Centuries ago, India was united by Chanakya (the ancient philosopher who is said to be the adviser of emperor Chandragupta Maurya), and after that Sardar Patel did it," Modi said.
Sardar Patel's birth anniversary is celebrated as `Rashtriya Ekta Diwas' (National Unity Day) since 2014.
At the function, the wife of Naseer Ahmed, a CRPF jawan who was killed in the February 2019 Pulwama terror attack, presented Modi with a replica of the National Police Memorial which commemorates over 34,000 state and central police personnel who died in the line of duty.
The prime minister offered floral tributes to the Statue of Unity, considered to be the world's tallest statue, as flower petals were showered on it from above by an Indian Air Force helicopter.
He watched `Ekta parade' in which personnel of the Gujarat Police, Jammu & Kashmir Police, Central Reserve Police Force and Border Security Force took part.
Addressing young IAS officers at a separate function in Kevadiya called 'Aarambh', the PM asked them to work together for the nation, saying silos and hierarchy don't help the system.
He called for working towards realing the vision of making India a USD 5 trillion economy by 2024-25.
"This course, Aarambh, is nation-centric and future- centric. It will usher a paradigm shift in administration, whereby people stop working on silos.
Instead, people work together and in a comprehensive manner," a tweet posted on Modi's official twitter handle - PMO India - quoted him as saying at the event.
Modi said no bureaucratic posting should be seen as a punishment rather it should be treated as an opportunity.
"The presence of silos and hierarchy doesn't help our system. Whoever we are, wherever we are, we have to work together for the nation," he added.
"Let's change how we look at things. Even something like a changed terminology helps. Earlier, people would keep saying backward districts. Today we say aspirational districts. Why should any posting be a punishment posting? Why not see it as an opportunity posting?" the PM said.
On the occasion, Modi remembered the contribution of Sardar Patel in the development of civil services.