All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Article 1 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights
A Hindu nationalist prime minister of India addressing a big election rally in Muslim majority Kashmir, the most troubled and disaffected corner of his nation.
That’s the bold political move Narendra Modi made on Monday.
It’s a sign of his style – highly engaged, politically courageous, much more pragmatic than his detractors expected – but offering few concessions on what he sees as the issues fundamental to rebuilding India’s national confidence and standing.
In his six months in office, Modi has often startled and surprised observers, and shown a boldness rarely evident at the top level of Indian politics in recent years.
He has established a dominance of the country’s political landscape arguably unparalleled since the death of Indira Gandhi 30 years ago.
Taking to the podium at a cricket stadium in the Kashmiri capital, Srinagar, Mr Modi sported a pheran, the woollen cape-like garment which is as typically Kashmiri as you can get. Much more of a political statement than a fashion statement.
I have come to give you justice”
Narendra Modi Prime Minster of India
And a move that attracted approving newspaper headlines in Kashmir even before the crowds started gathering.
It was many years, he declared, since an Indian national leader had addressed an election rally in the main part of the historic Sher-e-Kashmir stadium.
The stadium’s name translates as Lion of Kashmir – the title given to the iconic Kashmiri nationalist leader from the 1940s to his death in 1982, Sheikh Abdullah.
At times in his long political career, Sheikh Abdullah supported Indian rule – at times, he called for self-determination for Kashmir and spent many years in Indian jails as a result.
The current state assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir are the occasion for the prime minister’s visit, and he pointed to the high turnout in early rounds of voting as a sign that Kashmiris had rejected violence.