Breaking his silence on the over-a-month-long unrest which has claimed more than 55 lives, Modi said it was painfully to see innocent youngsters, who should be holding laptops, book and cricket bats, have been given stones and appealed to them for maintaining peace and harmony in the "heaven" on earth.

He said Kashmir has the freedom which is felt by Indians everywhere and asserted that the Mehbooba Mufti government and the Centre are working together to solve the state's difficulties but some people, who are unable to digest it, are clinging onto the path to destruction.

"When Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister he had adopted the path of insaniyat, jamhuriyat and Kashmiriyat and we walk the same road. I want to tell the brothers and sisters of Kashmir from this great birthplace of Chandra Shekhar Azad that Kashmir has the same strength that has been given to (other parts of) India by our freedom fighters. Kashmir has the same freedom that every Indian feels.

"Today, one feels pained to see that innocent youths have been handed stones. Politics of some people is clicking but what will happen to these gullible and simple youths. Humanity and Kashmiriyat will not be allowed to be hit. The path of democracy and dialogue is there," he told a public meeting here, the birthplace of Azad.

Making an impassioned appeal to the youths of Kashmir, Modi said they should keep the place as the heaven on the earth.

He hailed other political parties, especially Congress, for speaking in one voice on the Kashmir issue, calling it the strength of India. "We would like to move forward with this strength," he said.

Asserting that the state government, in which BJP is a partner, along with the central dispensation, is working towards the state's development, he said his government would do everything in this regard and will help lawyers, doctors, those depending on tourism and apple growers in their endeavours.

"Our Kashmir is heaven for the countrymen. Every India has a dream to travel to Kashmir sometime. But we can see that a handful of people in Kashmir, which is loved by India so much, a few misled people are harming this great tradition," he said before invoking Vajpayee's mantra.

"The common man in Kashmir wants peace," he said.

His government wants to take Kashmir to new heights of development, empower its panchayats and give job opportunities to its youths, he added.

The Prime Minister congratulated Mehbooba Mufti for ensuring that the Amarnath yatra continue despite the "malicious intentions" of a few people.

"Peace, unity and harmony in Kashmir... And I will especially call upon the youngsters of Kashmir that my friends we should together keep Kashmir as the heaven in the world. We should keep this dream," he said.

In Pics: PM Modi At '70 Saal Azadi, Yaad Karo Kurbani' Programme

He also used the occasion to make an appeal to Maoists and militants to lay down their arms, asking them to reflect if violence has given them anything even though they lost so much.

Addressing the people of conflict-hit Kashmir, he said, "Governments of India and Jammu & Kashmir, besides 125 crore Indians, wish you well. They want your development. Whatever India has to give for your development, we are ready to give."

In Kashmir, there has been no dearth of people willing to die for the country, he said, asking the people to join hands in nation-building.

The valley has been hit by violence following the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 8. Over 55 people, including two policemen, have been killed during clashes between protesters and security forces. Large parts of Kashmir have been under intermittent curfew during the period.

PM Modi was here to kick off a 15-day exercise, '70 Saal Azadi-Zara Yaad Karo Kurbani', a BJP move to commemorate the Independence Day.

Speaking on the day Mahatma Gandhi had given Quit India call to the British in 1942, the Prime Minister asked the countrymen to take up a cause and develop the country to the ideals of freedom fighters.

Latest News from India News Desk