Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Monday responded to National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah’s suggestion that the Indian government should hold bilateral talks with Pakistan, saying that he will instead speak to the people of Jammu and Kashmir, reported ANI.

During the address at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre in Srinagar, Shah referred to Abdullah’s comment on talks between India and Pakistan, saying that he had read a news report that the National Conference chief had made the suggestion.

“He is an experienced person, and has been the chief minister of the state,” the home minister said. “But I want to say to Farooq sahab and especially to all of you – if I have to talk, I will talk to my brothers and sisters, and the youth of Kashmir.”

The home minister said that those who advocate talks with Pakistan and separatists should be asked what Islamabad has done in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.

“Do they have electricity, roads, healthcare and toilets?” he asked. “There is nothing (on the other side). You (Kashmiris) have the same rights as any other Indian.”

Shah also said that he wanted to speak to the crowd “frankly” and therefore got the bullet-proof glass or security removed from the stage.

He said that he had “extended a hand of friendship” to the young people in Kashmir.

The home minister said that he has often been asked why a curfew was imposed in Kashmir, and why internet was snapped ahead of the decision taken on August 5, 2019. “This was done to protect and save the lives of our youth,” he said, according to Kashmir News Observer. “We didn’t want vested interests and anti-peace elements to exploit the situation and push our youth on roads to face bullets.”

On the abrogation of Article 370, Shah said that the decision was taken to put Kashmir, Jammu and the newly-created Union Territory of Ladakh on the path of development, PTI reported. “You will see the fruits of our efforts by 2024,” he added.

Shah said that seven new medical colleges were being set up in the Union Territory. “Earlier, 500 youths could become doctors...now 2,000 youths can become doctors from these new medical colleges.,” he said. “Nobody will need to go to Pakistan to study medicine.”

Shah reached Jammu and Kashmir on Saturday for a three-day visit – his first to the Valley after the Centre scrapped its special status under Article 370 of the Constitution and split the state into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019. He had last visited the erstwhile state right after taking over as the home minister in June 2019.