First, let me wish Your Excellency a very happy and prosperous new year. I am Sugato Mitra, a 41 year old man from Durgapur in West Bengal. As a very ordinary citizen of this great nation, I consider it an immense privillege of mine to be presented with an opportunity to answer a question which happens to cross the mind of someone who is not only the Honourable President of India but also happens to be one of the greatest intellectual minds of this country.
A look at the very elementary picture of terrorism reveals certain things:
1. A handful of immensely wealthy, influential and powerful people provide the leadership. In many instances they lead a justifiable movement. In an equal number of instances they have a personal axe to grind in the garb of mass movement. Some of them are prepared to come out and discuss their grievances. Others prefer to remain away from the public eye.
2. The foot soldiers are almost invariably youth of impressionable minds. It is also commonly seen that they come from ordinary or poor families.
The governments of different countries faced with the problem of terrorism has to do some serious and honest soul searching. The discussion below, tries to combine the aforesaid two aspects in an effort to find a solution to terrorism.
The question of origin of the terrorist movement has to be addressed first. Why did a terrorist movement arise? Was it because a certain section of the population justifiably demanded something, but was denied the same? In that case, how does the fulfillment of their demands fit into the overall national interest? If conceding to their justified demand does not affect national interests adversely, there is no harm in agreeing to them. But if those are contrary to the overall national interests then there is no question of conceding. But the issue should be considered objectively and impartially.
This seems to be particularly pertinent in the Kashmir problem. Here we see not only Kashmiris demanding their own independent homeland, but also a neighbouring country abetting the terrorist movement against India. Here Pakistan clearly has an axe to grind and in all probabilities ultimately want to annexe Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan and all Pakistan sponsored Kashmiri leaders should be firmly ignored in solving the problem.
The Government of India should address the people of Kashmir directly, especially the Kashmiri youth. The message should ring loud and clear: we want our Kashmiri brothers and sisters to be with us now and forever. India doesn't want to bribe Kashmiris with special concessions to be a part of this country. India wants every Kashmiri to be equal partners in the country's progress to prosperity. Every effort should be made to initiate progress in J&K through setting up of institutes of excellence and modern industries. The mind of the Kasmiri youth should be weaned away from the narrow confines of terrorism and divisiveness and exposed to modern liberal thinking through these institutes. When he or she is adequately trained, there should be adequate modern industries where he or she can put his hand on modern machines and applications. Hopefully, the Kashmiri youth will thereafter forsake the gun and terrorism and separatism as his or her aspirations in life, which are no different from any other normal youth, marches towards the path of fulfilment. Terrorism and its associated perils will be an unviable option compared to the peace and tranquility of a normal human life.
The same approach needs to be implemented in North East India as well. Development should be the dominant ingredient in the government's efforts to tame terrorism. Development for the masses, especially the youth and harsh repressive measures for the handful of masterminds can adequately tame terrorism.
Your Excellency, as you have rightly pointed out, the human population is growing and scarce natural resources are under pressure. If a system of equitable distribution could be worked out, it would leave greater number of people satisfied. But sadly this doesn't happen practically with the result that a lot of us feel deprived and aggrieved. This is particularly relevant to India and its exploding population. If the pressure of population on resources decreased, attrition would lessen consequently and quality of life of the average Indian improve considerably. That would also mean a drastic reduction in terrorist activities and chances thereof. Population control in India should not only be a slogan but a visible and effective national movement.
Adding to our woes, powerful nations want to corner a major share of the scarce natural resources. Terrorism originating from the Middle East has its roots in Western countries trying to control and corner the oil reserves located there. Kuwait was attacked by Iraq for its oil. The US started the Gulf War against Iraq to free Kuwait. And now Iraq is the latest hotbed of terrorism. Of course there is the Palestinian problem as a direct consequence of Israel's occupation. Israel can not be wished away, but it is Israel's responsibility to be the initiator of peace in the region with meaningful and acceptable efforts.
The UN of late has unfortunately come out as a pretty ineffective forum to implement peace. It has to be made effective. India is aspiring for a permanent seat in the Security Council. If she succeeds, India should hopefully provide solutions to end attritions accross the world and end terrorism. But right now responsible nations must unite against terrorism. The group should not only be composed of nations facing this threat, but also those still out of its tentacles. Terrorism should be tackled globally and not individually. When the World Trade Center came crashing down, the whole world condemned. But sadly, such reactions of universal solidarity are seen when terrorism kills innocents in India.
Sanity and responsibility are still dominant in the world. The need of the hour is unity of sane and right thinking people cutting across national barrier and ideologies. When they unite, greedy and aggressive regimes will be forced to take a backseat. Let there be greater exchanges between the youth of all countries who want peace in their own country and also internationally. Let ideas flow freely. Voices should be raised when a powerful nation tries to bully a weak nation into submission and thereby open another front for terrorism. Such nations, however powerful, should be shunned by one and all. And let the condemnation be equally loud and clear when terrorism strikes and kills innocents.
A check on the population growth, quality education and living standards, development and employment opportunities for the youth and respect for humanity and universal human values will ultimately wipe out terrorism one day. This may appear Utopian right now. But I am optimistic of seeing this day arrive soon. And with this fervent hope, Your Excellency, I end my humble submssion.