Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday claimed that people protesting against the Centre’s decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status belonged to the “usual vested interest groups [and] political dynasties”, and sympathised with terrorists. In an interview to IANS, Modi assured that Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh would develop according to the wishes of local people.

Earlier in the day, the Jammu and Kashmir government removed restrictions on public movement and gatherings that were imposed in Jammu last week. The curbs will, however, remain in place in Kashmir Valley. This came a day after the state government said restrictions imposed in the Valley since August 4 would be lifted in a phased manner.

“Those who are opposing the decisions on Jammu and Kashmir should answer one basic question – what is their defense for Articles 370 and 35(A) remaining?” the prime minister asked. “They would have no answer to this question. And, these are the same people who are used to protesting when it comes to anything that helps common people. There is a project to provide water to people, they will oppose it. There is a railway track being built, they will oppose that. Their heart only beats for Maoists and terrorists who have only bullied common citizens.”

He asked the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh to give development a chance. “My sisters and brothers of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh always wanted a better future for them but Article 370 did not enable it,” Modi claimed. “There was injustice against women and children, Scheduled Tribe as well as Scheduled Caste communities. And, most importantly, the innovative zeal of the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh was not harnessed.”

Modi compared Articles 370 and 35(A) to chains that keep people tied, and said those chains had been broken to empower the democracy. He reiterated that the Centre’s decisions were taken in national interest and were not based on politics. The Union government also split the state into two Union territories that will come into existence on October 31.

In his address to the nation on August 8, the prime minister had justified the withdrawal of the special status and urged businesses to come forward to develop the region. He said Ladakh had massive potential for eco and religious tourism, and could become a solar power hub. The Congress opposed the changes in Parliament but some of its leaders backed the government.