Time for reconciliation and peace-making. Let us together build a New Nagaland: Vajpayee’s clarion call

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October 28, 2003: Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s speech at the civic reception in his honour at Kohima


~I am delighted to be with you here this morning.


Ami laga Bhai aru Boyni khan

Aami Nagaland te matiya karune

besi khushi payase


My dear brothers and sisters, I am indeed happy to be in Nagaland. Thank you.


My hearty greetings to all of you. I also bring you the greetings of all your compatriots from the rest of India.


I am touched by the warmth of your welcome.


This is my first visit to Nagaland after becoming the Prime Minister. I want to express my regrets for not coming here earlier.


From time to time, people from Nagaland have been meeting me. I have kept myself abreast of the situation here. I am as happy as all of you that the developments are moving in a positive direction.


I am convinced that there is an overwhelming desire among Naga people for a permanent peace with honour and dignity. The Central Government has an equally strong desire for permanent peace in Nagaland, based on a lasting solution, with honour and dignity for its people.


It is this mutual desire that has driven the peace process forward. If we continue to work together in an atmosphere of mutual trust, understanding and patience, the day is not far when we reach our goal.


I sincerely thank all the brothers and sisters belonging to different organizations who have contributed to the progress of the peace process. I appreciate the constructive role played by various religious, social groups and NGOs. I thank all of them for their efforts.


Unfortunately, too much blood was shed in Nagaland in the decades gone by. A lot of people suffered. The wheels of development stopped. Mistakes were committed.


Now the time has come to leave the sad chapter of conflict and violence behind us. Rather than remaining tied to the past, we have to take care of the present and look to the future.


This is the time for reconciliation and peace-making. This is also the path that Mahatma Gandhi and Loknayak Jayprakash Narayan wanted us to follow. Both were true friends of Naga people.


It is true that, of all the States in India, Nagaland has a unique history. We are sensitive to this historical fact.


But this uniqueness has in no way diminished the spirit of patriotism among the Naga people. We have the inspiring examples of Patriot Jadunong, who became a martyr, and Rani Gaidelu. Who can forget that in critical times of war in 1962, 1965 and 1971, Naga underground organizations did not fire on the Indian Army? They showed restraint. I would also like to acknowledge the sacrifices of jawans from Nagaland during the Kargil War.


In times of crisis, all of India becomes one. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, and from Kutch to Kohima, the same feeling of unity and responsibility runs through.


Nobody can deny that in India’s security and development lie the security and development of all of our States, including Nagaland. Similarly, in the peace and development of Nagaland and all other States lies the overall well-being of India.


We have to further strengthen these bonds of solidarity.


My dear Naga sisters and brothers, as we move closer to permanent peace in Nagaland based on a permanent solution to the issues that have engaged us for the past many decades, I want to assure you on certain counts.


We do not wish to impose any external customs on you. India has a long tradition of tolerating diverse customs and ways of life. You have nothing to fear.


Throughout history, India has been a laboratory of Unity in Diversity to the entire world. India’s uniqueness and strength lies in her diversity. Therefore, Nagaland’s unique tradition has contributed to India’s strength.


I wish to assure you on another score. India is a secular nation, both because of our Constitution and, more importantly, because of our civilisational ethos. As you know, India is home to all the faiths in the world. India has respected and protected all faiths.


Indeed, Christianity came to India — to the southern State of Kerala — before it spread to most parts of Europe. And it was a Hindu king who donated land for a church to be built.


We also respect your traditional system of governance. Many tribal representatives tell us, ‘We have a sound way of managing the affairs of our villages. Why should we always learn from others? Why cannot others learn from us?’


I agree. There are many good things that others should learn from Nagaland. For example, the practice of broadbased debate and consensual decision-making in your Naga Ho-Hos is the very kernel of democracy. It deserves to be emulated at all levels —  from the village level to the global level.


Yesterday your Chief Minister and his colleagues made a presentation on the situation in the State. I would like to commend the State’s reform efforts, particularly the communitisation of social service institutions, such as schools and rural health centers. The Centre will fully support such reforms. Yours is indeed a model for other States to follow.


Today Nagaland is a proud and honoured member of the larger Indian Family. This Indian Family may comprise of big States and small, but all are equal. Some States may have a large population and some far less. But all enjoy the same status.


Indeed, our Constitution guarantees that smaller and disadvantaged States get more assistance than others. My Government is especially sensitive to the needs of all Special Category States, including Nagaland.


For example, your Chief Minister came to me sometime back seeking assistance from the Centre to overcome the State’s financial crisis. We responded positively. We converted an earlier loan of Rs. 365 crore into a grant.


Our vision is to ensure that no State, no region and no social group in India remains weak and disadvantaged. We are especially keen that our North-Eastern region achieves speedy and all-round development.


Our goal is to remove poverty, unemployment, social disparities and regional imbalances. Our goal is to remove the distance between the more developed and the less developed. In Hindi, I keep saying,


We want to remove the distance between people, created by geography. That is why, we are improving the air and rail connectivity between the North-East and the rest of India. That is why, we have ushered in a telecom and IT revolution in India.


Today, India’s mobile market is the fastest growing in the world. And we said, why should Nagaland be deprived of the fruits of this mobile phone revolution? I am happy that we inaugurated BSNL’s mobile phone service in Nagaland yesterday.


We are also minimizing the distance between places through good road connectivity. For the first time since Independence, we are building a world-class four-lane highway network connecting the North and South of India, and the West, East and North-East of India. We are spending Rs. 54,000 crore on this National Highway Development Project.


We are not keeping Nagaland out of this ambitious project. Earlier, this highway network was planned to come up to Silchar. Today I am happy to announce that Kohima will also be connected to this project with a four-lane highway. The Centre will spend Rs. 400 crore on widening this road on National Highway 39. And the work will start next year.


Now, the Government of Nagaland has approached us with proposals to construct some important roads within the State. The Centre will provide Rs. 50 crore for this purpose. However, I have one condition. The roads must be of good quality —  much better than the existing roads.


Speaking of roads in Nagaland, I have to say that I had a first-hand experience yesterday. Mother Nature wanted me to take the road journey from Dimapur to Kohima. I was told that, of all the roads in the State, this is the best. If this is the best, it is difficult to imagine how bad is the worst.


I am therefore pleased to announce that the Border Roads Organisation will immediately undertake significant improvement of the Dimapur-Kohima road as part of making it a four-lane highway.


As you know, we have also launched a massive project to connect all the villages in India with good, all-weather roads. We are spending Rs. 60,000 crore on Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, which is the biggest rural infrastructure development since Independence. I would like Nagaland to take full advantage of this project.


All these projects are creating lakhs of new employment opportunities. They are giving a boost to our agriculture, industry and a host of new services. I would like Nagaland to fully benefit from these projects.


Your Chief Minister told me that unemployment among the youth is a major problem in Nagaland. This problem has to be addressed in innovative ways. The nature of employment generation has undergone a change all over the world —  including in India. Government jobs cannot be the main source of employment generation. We have to create more and more productive self-employment opportunities.


In this context, I am pleased to announce that the Centre will work closely with the State Government to create 25,000 employment and self-employment opportunities in Nagaland over the next two years. These will be in village industries, tourism, transport, horticulture, fruit-processing and other sectors that best use your strengths and resources. The State Government’s Bamboo Mission will be fully supported.


Farmers are the backbone of Indian society. I want to congratulate the farmers of Nagaland for the innovations they have introduced in their traditional jhum cultivation. These innovations need to be further developed and promoted.


I am aware of your amazing bio-diversity —  indeed of the entire North-Eastern region. There is a big potential for development of horticulture, floriculture and medicinal plants here. I was very recently in Thailand and was wonderstruck by the beauty and variety of orchids they grow. The flowers and fruits from Thailand —  and even countries as far away as Australia and New Zealand —  can now be found in the markers of Delhi. Therefore, can we not develop this potential in Nagaland? We can. And we will.


The Centre will lend full support to the speedy and all-round development of Nagaland and the entire North-Eastern region. However, we also need the support of the people, political parties, social organizations, NGOs and governments in this region.


The deepest desire of the people of this region is for peace. Peace is also a precondition for the development of the North-East. Without peace, there can be no private sector investment and no development. Without development, there can be no employment.


I therefore appeal to the misguided organisations in this region, which have taken to the path of extremism and violence, to shun that path. The Centre is willing to have talks with all those who are ready to give up the gun culture, and take to the culture of dialogue and democracy.


There is no issue, which cannot be resolved through sufficiently long and patient dialogue. Our experience in Nagaland is showing this.


The need for peace has another side to it in the North-East. Even issues between tribes and organizations should be resolved peacefully through dialogue. Violent rivalries can have no place in our vision of a progressive, peaceful and prosperous Nagaland, in which every tribe benefits and no one is left behind.


My second appeal is to all those who are a part of the government and administration at different levels. The under-development of the North-Eastern region is not necessarily on account of shortage of funds. However, funds must be used judiciously. Corruption is an enemy of development.


There should be proper accountability —  both at the political and bureaucratic levels. Projects should be completed on time. Otherwise, we end up spending several times more than the originally planned amount. We also lose valuable time. Take the case of this stadium itself, which I am inaugurating. This is your State. You should take responsibility for its development.


No citizen or businessman in the State should feel unsafe and intimidated. The rule of law should be respected.


Development of the North-East sometimes suffers from another drawback. Often, government departments and agencies draw up plans and implement programmes without adequate participation of the people. Schemes are formulated in a uniform manner for everybody without taking into account their relevance to local needs and conditions.


Here I am reminded of the story of a king who once went on a tour of a province in his kingdom. The place was hot and he came across children who were going to school barefoot and with their heads unprotected. He ordered his officers to make sure that every child got a pair of shoes and a cap. ‘Jee huzoor,’ said the officers. After a few weeks, they sent a consignment from the capital containing shoes and caps. On a subsequent visit to the same province, the king saw that only a small number of children were wearing them.


He asked the officers accompanying him why this was so. They replied, ~Your majesty, we promptly implemented your order and dispatched the required quantity of goods from the capital.~ The king then turned to the headmaster of the school and posed the same question.


The headmaster said, ~Your Majesty, the officers are right. They did send us the required number of shoes and caps, but all of them were of the same size. They probably expected that, instead of changing the size of the shoes and caps to fit the children’s feet and head, the children should change the size of their feet and head to fit what they had so generously sent us.~


The people should have a say in what kind of development they want. We should harmonise our national priorities, State priorities and local priorities through constant dialogue.


Today there are coalition governments both in Kohima and in New Delhi. The National Democratic Alliance has as many as two dozen parties. Many of them are small parties, but they have an equal place in the NDA. We respect them. Our alliance has shown that regional aspirations can be harmonized with a strong national outlook. In this sense, the NDA is a mini-India in the political field.


Our alliance has also shown that a coalition government at the Centre can be stable. We have not only provided stability; we have also provided dynamism to India’s development. India’s prestige has risen all over the world. Among other things, this is reflected in India’s growing ties with ASEAN countries.


I give my best wishes to the Government of the Democratic Alliance in Nagaland. I would like it to work as a model of good governance and responsible governance for all other States in the North-East. I would also like to thank the people of Nagaland for their support to the BJP, which is now a part of the ruling coalition.


In a democracy, there will always be some parties in power and others in the opposition. Some will win and others will lose. This process will continue. But whether a party is in power or in the opposition, all should work together for the common good of the State and its people.


In this, we should learn from the traditional democratic practice of village councils in Nagaland.


With these words, I conclude my speech. I thank you for this very warm reception. My best wishes to all of you. My best wishes to the peace process. I assure you that you will find a trustworthy partner in my Government in reaching the cherished goal of lasting peace in Nagaland with dignity and honour for its people.


Aami khan sob milikina


Nagaland tu bhal korikena bo nabo


Let us together build a New Nagaland. Dhanyabaad.


Thank you.


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