Excerpts from the speech of the Chief Whip of Biju Janata Dal in Lok Sabha on July 20.
Most humbly I would like to start by saying, when I went out to the Central Hall somebody smiled and said, “Have you been listening to the wail of the willows?”
I was stuck for a second. I said, “Sorry, I could not understand what you are saying”.
He said there were two people and both involved in the business of cricket – please underline the word “business” – and both gave long speeches in this House, completely hollow and giving no message to the country or to the youth.
So, I said, ‘What are willows?” Willows, it seems, are the huge trees, which grow exclusively in Kashmir, from which you make cricket bats. It then slowly, as I am from a backward district and an uneducated person, dawned on me that it was a pun on two of our shining bright stars on both sides of the spectrum.
The international terror scene is getting more and more grim. We cannot talk about India, Kashmir or Bangladesh border with Bengal or any such fragmented area of the globe any more.
At a certain time we thought Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran who brought about a revolution. Then it spread. Then the Americans created as much confusion as they could in the world because of their greed for oil or whatever. Then, international politics got murkier and murkier. Then nations like Iraq, Saudi Arabia, etc. got pulled in.
Today, every country across the globe has become a victim of terror. The politics of terror is a very rich politics. It involves millions and billions of dollars. It is all a business and it is nothing but that.
Just like Maoists poach animals, cut trees and sell timber, this is on a larger scale.
What India do the Kashmiri youth see?
Let me remember my humble base and remember that we are here to talk about Kashmir and about India. When I read the newspapers I wonder that when a young Kashmiri girl or boy wakes up in the morning, opens the door or window and looks out, what does she or he see? What is the permanent fixture? One ex-Chief Minister said that there are no slums, there is no poverty, etc.
There is no poverty. This is like Gujarat model or something like that. Giving a kind of false image is very easy but everybody knows – whether it is Tamil Nadu or Odisha or West Bengal or Gujarat or Kashmir or anywhere – poverty is intense in this country. Let us not close our eyes to that.
So, what does this young Kashmiri see when he opens the door? He sees damaged roads that have not been repaired for years – there are not even motorcycle-friendly roads because I know people. In Jagannathpuri, there are a few Kashmiri young boys who have shops there.
I talk to them. They tell me about Kashmir. There is a boy called Farhan who says that there are no roads, I say to them that you do not have a major problem – you have drinking water. They said, "That is completely wrong information. We do not have clean drinking water in our villages. We do not have roads – our kids have not seen electricity for decades."
Who is blaming whom? What were they doing? What are you doing? Blame game is easy. But reality is completely different from your politics.
What does the youth see outside? They see armed to the teeth Indian CRPF or BSF or Army jawans. That is all. That is India – and that is the beginning of the day for that youth.
So, imagine like we normally get text messages – good morning, good afternoon, good evening – they get text messages saying, I have five soldiers in front of my house today; I have this man with different weapons that I cannot recognise. The other guy says, take a picture immediately. This is the situation in Kashmir.
There is an old English adage – everyone loves trouble. Have we been – barring none – relishing the trouble in Kashmir? Is not war a great fun thing for all those who are involved in a war to make money out of it by selling arms? Arms dealers in Delhi; all the arms dealers across the country and the world; they love such situations. Unfortunately in India, everyone who is a tax payer is the one who suffers. I suffer daily because the money I pay as tax to the Government, and I am not saying it is the Government of the ADMK, or BJD or Congress or BJP; I am talking about the Government of India – GOI.
No matter which political party is there; we are aware of that. They are temporary. These people are temporary. They have gone. How long will we continue this? When can we cut the umbilical cord and say that listen, we have done enough? Now, let us mend the country.
Azadi from what?
They talk of azadi. Azadi from what? Have we ever tried to find out?
It is not azadi from the Union of India, maybe – “maybe” I am adding. Maybe it is azadi from poverty; maybe it is azadi from the threat to the very existence of my mother, of my sister, of my child; maybe it is azadi from this horrible police State that all of us, whether it is Congress or whether it is BJP, all of us have been subjecting them to.
They know very well. Let us not underestimate the Kashmiri youth. They are not idiots; they are smart young boys and girls. They know very well, Sir, that if India withdraws, and they have to join perforce with Pakistan, they will have a miserable existence. They do not wish to leave India. They all want to be with India. It is only these misguided few youngsters whom you have been incapable of over decades to handle, to educate; they are making the trouble because they don’t see any future.
This crisis in Kashmir is not a 10-day, 12-day problem. It did not happen with the death of one individual who was popular on the social media. It has been brewing there for a very long time. In the last two-three days, I was reading The Indian Express. It says in bold letters, “Government says, ‘We will talk to the Kashmiris’”.
Whom will you talk to in Kashmir? Who are those Kashmiris? Can you draw the 18-20-year-old stone-pelter to a table? Can you make him sit and discuss with you? Are you even capable of it? Do you have the means to approach him? You do not. What do you do instead? You create a leader, like some leader of the past created a leader amongst the Sikhs who holed up in the Golden Temple and then we had to fight a war in Punjab.
Similarly, all the successive governments have been creating leaders in Kashmir. Today you become the leader, I want to talk to you; tomorrow you become the leader, I want to talk to you. So, they are not leaders and they have no people behind them. It is because you are helpless, you do not find anybody to discuss with, you are creating leaders. They are not leaders of the people.
The leader of the people is that 18-20 year old youth on the street with a stone in his hand. Have you ever tried like these North Indian people talk? The Hindi speaking people say ‘Beta, idhar aao’. Have you tried to give him solace, take the stone out of his hand, give him a screw driver, give him a wrench, give him a stethoscope?
We are talking about a 16-year-old boy who died who had dreams of becoming doctor? Where would he go to get educated? How many education loans have you given in Kashmir in these two years? Can you give us figures of that? Forget the evil past, forget the dark past, the people of India have forgotten them and are still trying to forget them.
You do not have to make this country mukt of anybody. In democracy, a country cannot be mukt of anybody. Look after your own interest, look after the interest of the country. In these two years, how many education loans have you given in Kashmir? How many micro, small and medium industries have you funded in Kashmir? How many have you set up there?
How many youths have you approached by saying that we will not fire at you? What do you deal with them with? You deal with them with the power of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act which is draconian and one sided. I am an Indian. I love my country. I am not speaking against my Armed Forces. But I also wish to state that just like in the Northeast, similarly in Kashmir, the outrage that has been created by the Indian Armed Forces cannot be ignored.
Burhan Wani: an icon?
Sir, Burhan Wani is a terrorist in our eyes. I agree. He was somebody who was against the State of India, the very existence of India. But did he know what India was? He became an icon of the youth. Why? It is because he did not know this country.
You have been in the government for the past two years. Could you not get 5,000 youth trained in ITIs across the country and employed across the country? As Central government, with the help of their own party in power in the State government, you could not give employment to mere 5,000 youth?
I have a newspaper in Odisha. I will be taking five youths from Kashmir. This is a commitment I am making at a personal level. Can we not do that much? Instead what do we do? We stop their newspapers, we stop their media and we ban everything. There are Ministers who call the media bad names like “presstitutes”. I am ashamed to be in a democracy, in a country like India where Ministers of dignity call the media such words.
So, when Burhan Wani was buried, I was not surprised to hear that he had more than two lakh people. Nobody had organised it. It was not a political rally. At some 30 to 40 other places simultaneously, there were prayers being held for him. So, we have to understand the depth he could go to because he had become an icon.
Have you tried to create an icon in Kashmir? Have you or have these people the courage to put your hand on your shoulders and say: “In the last 10 years, we have given so many people from Kashmir, the Padma Awards?” Is not there a single man in Kashmir, not a single artist, not a single singer, not a single dancer in Kashmir, who can get the Padma Award? Have you tried to bring them into the mainstream of this country?
You have kept them away. You have shown hatred. Only speaking here: “Mere Kashmiri bhaiyos and behnos” is not enough. I have to put it into action. Have we done it in action? Prove it. They have no other icon but a person like Wani. You cannot blame the youth for that, Sir. If you do not give them an alternative, a positive view to life.
I am not supporting it. I am saying, as a government when we fail to create an icon, which will be positive in their mindset; when their mind sees a positive icon, they will follow that icon. If that icon can be an Indian, can be a Kashmiri, they will follow that.
Kashmir is such a rich State with culture, music, everything. Can we not make small industries there? Can these youths not be employed? Sir, you would have seen as a politician, who comes through. What happens with employment? In one village, if one boy is given employment, there is social pressure. Even those who oppose us politically, they tell their children: “Aray go, talk to the MP, be friendly, you may get an employment.” So, you have to create social pressure in Kashmir that one youth getting a job, will create a social pressure amongst other youths.
Sir, everybody has been talking negative. I demand time. The Government has come up with a plethora of schemes. Your Jan Dhan Yojana, your Sit India, Crawl India, Walk India, Standup India, so many Indias… How many schemes have you implemented in Kashmir?
Sir, from the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana to Skill India, to all these schemes, can we make a concerted effort to ensure that these schemes are properly, duly implemented in Kashmir? If yes, tell us the outcome because you are in power there. The Manmohan Singh government, for 10 years, was a weak-kneed, powerless government. But they had thought of a plan, of a policy. He had four schemes, e.g., how to demilitarise the populated areas, how to allow people to cross over the LoC without hindrance. He had come up with a policy. Good or bad, is for history to decide. I am not praising Manmohan Singh. But their Government had come up with a policy. Today that policy is not there. What is your policy?
Sir, I will wind up with only one last paragraph. Let us not treat every Kashmiri as a separatist or terrorist. The mindset that creates a feeling of separatism, which in turn, creates militancy, stems from deep-rooted frustration with a non-responsive system. The Central Government’s agenda should be to create jobs, to create industries, to create more opportunities and to find a way to bring true democracy and long lasting peace to the State of Jammu and Kashmir. I would urge the Government to give priority to economic empowerment and not military entrenchment.