19 October, Gurez (J&K)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday celebrated Diwali with soldiers in this idyllic valley of Jammu and Kashmir, telling them how he gets engergised by spending time with the Armed Forces which he called “my family”.
Dressed like soldiers in military camouflage, Modi sported a black aviator on his eyes and spent nearly two hours with the troops in the Gurez valley near the Line of Control (LoC) — the de facto border that divides Jammu and Kashmir between India and Pakistan.
He offered sweets and gifts and exchanged greetings with them, appreciating the sacrifices of armed forces in protecting the country.
He said like everyone else he too wished to spend Diwali with his family.
“Therefore, I came here to be with you because you are my family. When I shake hands with you, you may think it is a formality. But it is not a formality for me. I get new energy,” he said in his address to the gathering of the men in uniform.
The Prime Minister said he had been told that the soldiers on the borders regularly practice yoga which would “definitely enhance their abilities, and give them a sense of calm”.
He said soldiers who leave the armed forces after completing their duty tenure “can become excellent yoga trainers”.
In the visitors’ book, Modi wrote: “Protecting the Motherland, far from your loved ones, displaying the highest traditions of sacrifice, all soldiers at the nation’s borders, are symbols of bravery and dedication.
“I have an opportunity to spend the festival of Diwali with you. The presence of brave soldiers at the border, on this festive occasion, lights the lamp of hope, and generates new energy among crores of Indians.”
The Prime Minister, according to an official statement, spoke of the new resolve that each Indian citizen must make for 2022 — the 75th anniversary of Independence.
“To accomplish the dream of ‘New India’, this is a golden opportunity for all of us to work together. The Army too is a part of it.”
He also said that the central government was committed to the “welfare and the betterment” of the military personnel, in every way possible.
He mentioned about the implementation of One Rank, One Pension, which had been pending for decades.
The Chief of Army Staff, Gen. B.S. Rawat, and other senior Army Officers were present on the occasion.
The Prime Minister arrived at the Dawar Brigade headquarters of the Army in the border town of Gurez, some 130 km from Srinagar, in north Kashmir’s Bandipore district.
Gurez is the gateway to Gilgit-Baltistan, part of the Jammu and Kashmir under Pakistani control.
This is the fourth successive Diwali Modi celebrated with soldiers. In 2014, months after he took the power, Modi spent the festival at Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield.