Appealing to the youth of Kashmir to question those who instigate them to join the "so-called freedom struggle", Union minister Jitendra Singh on Sunday hit out at the separatists, saying if stone-pelting is a "holy task" then they should make their own children pelt stones and risk their lives.
Singh rejected separatists as being stakeholders in Kashmir and said that real stakeholders are the state's youth below the age of 40 who constitute 65 per cent of its population.
"I have made this appeal to youth of Kashmir that time has come for you (youth of valley) to raise this question-mark on those (separatists), who instigate you to join this so- called freedom struggle," Singh told reporters.
The minister said, "If they (separatists and others) feel that this struggle of stone-pelting is so holy and a holy task, they should set an example of sparing one child from their own family to become a stone-pelter or lay down his life. This duplicity is not going to work now".
"Kashmiri youth has rejected this duplicity. That is why, 66,000 youth came out for seeking government jobs yesterday despite hostile circumstances. Hurriyat today stand exposed," he said.
"We have 65 per cent of youth below the age of 40 years. So the real stakeholders of Kashmir are the youth. Those who keep complaining that government is not holding talks, have got their minds fixed on two or three names and those names have already lost their relevance," he said in an apparent reference to Hurriyat leaders.
Singh said, "many of the separatist leaders are now losing their credibility for the fact that they stand totally exposed. You cannot have your children lodged in safe havens of Bengaluru, Pune, Delhi or abroad. You cannot go after government jobs for your children and then ask your neighbour's children to become stone pelters".
"Regardless of all that is happening, I have confidence that things are going to turn for the better sooner rather than later," he said to a question on the situation in Kashmir.
"The evidence of this is in the fact that inspite of such hostile circumstances, yesterday itself, youth in a huge number of more than 65,000 came out to try their luck for the post of police sub-inspector when the number of posts were just 700," he said.
Singh said the youth of Kashmir want to be part of the development journey of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
"So this itself is an indication and evidence of the fact that the youth of Kashmir want to be part of mainstream India and all want to be part of the development journey led by Prime Minister Modi".
"Youth of Kashmir also realise their stake of being part of Modi's development agenda. They are also conscious of the fact when youth in other states are taking benefit of schemes initiated by Modi, the youth of Kashmir must not be left out. They are serious and conscious about it," he said.
Asked about militant leader Zakir Musa's recent comment on "Islamisation" of Kashmir, he said that as far as Islamisation is concerned, it is a universal phenomenon.
"Kashmir being vulnerable territory and having majority population of Islam, is sought to be used by certain elements to carry forward this agenda. But the saving grace is that Kashmir has been traditionally known for a composite culture. It is this tradition that is resisting any such attempt of Islamisation," he said.
On the government holding talks with stakeholders, Singh said talks and engagement with stakeholders are already on.