On his first visit to Kashmir as President, Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday said no problems are ever resolved by violence and the healing process must be nurtured with love, compassion and patience while important issues need speedy resolution.
Touching on the urgent need for greater tolerance in society, he said there are grievances and many important issues need deft handling and speedy resolution.
"The government of India and the state government of J and K are determined to ensure that every Kashmiri lives with dignity having equal rights and equal opportunities," he said in his address at the 18th convocation of University of Kashmir.
This is his first visit to Jammu and Kashmir after assuming the office of President.
Addressing the students, Mukherjee said he would like to take this opportunity while being among the "bright, young" people to highlight the relevance and urgent need for greater tolerance "in our society".
"No problems are ever resolved by violence. It only aggravates the pain and the hurt on every side. The healing process must be nurtured with love, compassion and patience," he said.
Jammu and Kashmir Governor N N Vohra, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Vice Chancellor Talat Ahmed were among the host of dignitaries present on the occasion.
"I am aware that there are grievances. Many important issues need deft handling and speedy resolution," the President said.
He said India of tomorrow, achieved through inclusive growth, offers enormous opportunities for the youth of Kashmir if they only seize them.
"Do not lose any more time. The whole world is rapidly transforming itself. We in India should not be left behind.
The contributions of young Kashmiris are critical for India's advancement to progress.
"Let the dark days of violence and conflict be left behind. Let a new dawn emerge. It is the time to move ahead with faith in our collective future and confidence in the largest democracy in the world, where rule of law prevails, robust institutions function and the Constitution serves as the Supreme Law," Mukherjee said.
He said let Jammu and Kashmir lead the way in the building of a new future for India. Let it set an example to the rest of India and the world by showing how the entire region can be transformed into a zone of peace, stability and prosperity.
"Let Jammu and Kashmir regain its historical role as a center of learning, a place frequented by saints and religious scholars, a land known for its diversity and harmony, a fulcrum of trade and commerce with our neighbours," he said.
The President said institutions of higher education, with their emphasis on sound value systems and character building can play an effective role in developing a greater sense of responsibility and a rational approach to all issues.
"In this context, the duty of teachers is to inculcate in their students a balance -- of knowledge and skills with the moral and aesthetic values," he said.
Mukherjee also called upon the youth of Kashmir to take the lead in forging the future of our nation. In every field of activity -- be it business, industry, trade, education or culture, India is a nation on the move.
"A billion people marching forward led by the ideas, enterprise and energy of its predominantly young population," he said.
"I am confident that the young people of India will build a strong and powerful nation -- a nation that is politically mature and economically strong, a nation whose people enjoy both a high quality of life as well as justice, fundamental rights and equality," he said.
'I condemn the anti-Islam offensive video'
President Mukherjee also condemned the offensive video on Islam made in the US and its dissemination through social media.
"I condemn in the strongest of terms the making of the offensive video and its dissemination through social media. India can never condone any act which disparages religious sentiments or hurts religious feelings," he said.
The President was reacting to a media query and to local sentiments which also found expression through advertisements in local newspapers in which he was urged to denounce the film.
"The Ministry of External Affairs is in touch with the US officials who share our concerns on the matter. Google India has in compliance with Indian law, blocked access to the offensive material," he said.
Mukhtar Ahmad adds from Srinagar:
A separatist sponsored shutdown against the visit of President Pranab Mukherjee affected normal life in Kashmir on Thursday.
President Mukherjee arrived on a three-day visit to Kashmir on Wednesday.
Mukherjee will attend the 18th convocation of Kashmir University on Thursday being held after a gap of three years, review the Dal Lake conservation project and interact with a group of intellectuals in Srinagar.
Tuesday's strike called by the hard-line separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani shut shops and businesses in capital Srinagar and other towns.
Authorities have made elaborate security arrangements in the entire summer capital Srinagar and other towns where skeletal public transport was plying on the streets.
However, private transport was plying normally.
Muzaffarabad-based United Jehad Council, a conglomerate of various militant groups, have supported the bandh call.
All the schools in capital city are closed while attendance in government offices and banks is thin.
Engineer Abdul Rashid, an independent MLA, along with scores of his supporters staged a sit-in protest near the city centre, Lal Chowk, coinciding with Mukherjee's visit to press for the clemency to Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
They were carrying banners and placards reading 'capital punishment should be abolished'.
Rashid also demanded release of other Kashmiri youth detained in various jails outside the state.
Image: President Pranab Mukherjee