Amid strikes all over Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the train from the starting point of the Vaishno Devi shrine at Katra on Friday.
The new train was an initiative of the Indian government and the Railways to establish a direct link between the most visited pilgrimage—Mata Vaishno Devi with Delhi. The train, with lakhs of devotees visiting the pilgrimage, will run from Delhi via Udhampur to Katra, the final destination to the pilgrimage.
Modi has named the new train to Katra as "Shreeshakti Express."
J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who was also present at the inauguration, expressed his gratitude to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for initiating the development of railway network in the valley, connecting regions across the nation.
Modi arrived at the valley on Friday morning with the National Security Adviser Ajeet Doval, amid general strike declared by separatists in the region.
In a protest against Modi's visit to the valley, the separatists groups including All Parties Hurriyat Conference and Muslim groups have called for a strike on Friday.
They have revolted against Modi-government's initiative to grant citizenship to West Pakistan refugees of 1947, living in Jammu and establish separate settlement for Kashmiri pundits, who started migrating after the 1948 Muslim riots and eruption of militancy in 1989.
However, Mufti Bashir-ud-Din, the president of a religious group in Kashmir, has expressed his willingness to allow the return of the Kashmiri pundits back to the valley, but not at the cost of separating the state based on religion.
"Kashmiri pundits are an important part of our society. They are welcome to return to the valley and settle at their ancestral places or any other place alongside their Muslim brothers. But the move to create separate settlements for them will have serious consequences," India Today quoted Mufti.
While another separatist leader, Syed Ali Geelani, expressing his motive behind the protest and strike said they are not ready to welcome a person representing those responsible for prolonged tensions in J&K.
"We have no personal enmity with him (Modi). But he is visiting as the Prime Minister of a country, which has forcibly enslaved us and whose army kills our people systematically," Mint Live quoted him.
Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front Chairman Yasin Malik has reportedly accused BJP and RSS of changing the demography of Kashmir by assimilating Pakistani refugees and Kashmiri pundits into the valley of Kashmir.
Pakistan's displeasure at Modi's visit
Modi's visit has not just been protested by the people of Kashmir, but also by its neighbour Pakistan, who by calling J&K, a "disputed territory," assured that it will not give up the fight for the accession of the valley.
"We do not accept the so-called accession of the State of Jammu & Kashmir to India. Kashmir is not an integral part of India. Our position is that Jammu & Kashmir is a disputed territory," NDTV quoted Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam.
Aslam also alleged that many 264 Pakistani civilians and 116 fishermen, who had already completed their jail terms, are still in custody of India.