Security was tight for his first trip to the Muslim-majority region since he made the controversial change in 2019.

“I am working hard to win your hearts,” he told a rally in Srinagar, weeks before general elections are held.

An armed revolt against Indian rule in the disputed territory has claimed tens of thousands of lives since the 1980s.

Kashmir was divided after India and Pakistan gained independence from Britain in 1947. The two nuclear-armed states both claim the region in its entirety and have fought two wars over it in the decades since.

“People used to ask who will tour Jammu-Kashmir – now thousands are,” Mr Modi told thousands of people packed into Srinagar’s Bakshi stadium.

“Friends, Jammu and Kashmir is touching new heights of development because it is breathing freely now. This freedom has come after the removal of Article 370, which had been a barrier.”

He announced projects worth 64bn rupees ($774m; £607m) to support local agriculture and tourism. His comments about Article 370 – a constitutional provision which had granted significant autonomy to the former state of Jammu and Kashmir – echo what he said last month on a visit to mostly-Hindu Jammu.

Mr Modi’s decision to impose direct federal rule angered many Kashmiris.

One local leader said that almost none of those attending Mr Modi’s rally would be going of their own free will. “Employees who don’t show up are being threatened with disciplinary action,” former Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah alleged in a message on X, formerly Twitter.


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