April 2003 News

Do Not Divide Hindu, Muslim says Vajpayee

22 April 2003
The Asian Age
Atal Behari Vajpayee

New Delhi: I am pleased to be with all of you today at the 16th Convocation of the University of Kashmir. I am aware of the honour of following in the footsteps of many great personalities, beginning with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India who also addressed the first convocation of your university. I welcome the opportunity of congratulating everyone receiving a degree or distinction or honour at this convocation. Today is an occasion for you to express your gratitude to all those who prepared you to enter the most important phase of your life - a life of challenges as well as opportunities. The education that you have received no doubt equips you to shape your own personal career. But it also enables you to determine how you wish to contribute to creating a better future for India and for your own beautiful state. Convocation may connote the end of formal education, but not of education as such. Learning is a life-long activity. Prophet Mohammed exhorted everyone, woman and man alike, to pursue learning from cradle to grave, and to cross every frontier to seek ilm (knowledge). It is a happy coincidence that your university is located near Hazaratbal, which is made famous by its association with the Prophet of Islam. The very fact that this convocation is taking place after a gap of six long years is an indication of the troubled times in which you had to study, your teachers had to teach, and the administrators of your university had to function. But a student is one who remains devoted to learning in spite of all the turbulence around him. Indeed, in learning about the subjects of their respective courses, students also learn about the turbulence around them. They intensely reflect on how it may one day be tamed so that the garden of knowledge rides out the storm, and future generations may savour that garden's most cherished fruit: Peace. Friends, anyone who experiences the beauty and serenity of Jammu & Kashmir is bound to conclude that God has been partial to this place, making it the Paradise on Earth. However, the same person, looking at the strife and violence that have marred the state's tranquillity, might also wonder: why has peace eluded this Paradise for so long? It is a question that needs to be objectively studied by all those who care for peace, and who care for Kashmir. An unprejudiced examination of facts would reveal that the ideologies that support militancy, terrorism and separatism find no support whatsoever in the social history, cultural identity and spiritual traditions of Kashmir. Kashmir, like the rest of India, has been the respecter of all spiritual streams and alchemist of all cultural influences. It has accepted all that is noble in mankind's creation, and rejected none. The interaction of the three great religions of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam on the soil of Kashmir saw a soaring of the human spirit, propagating far and wide the ideals of humanism, tolerance, communal harmony and peace among the people. It is necessary and useful for us to remember that Sufi Islam arrived here neither as a conqueror nor as a competitor, but as an ally to Kashmir's existing spiritual tradition. Shiv chuy thali thali rozan; Mo zan Hindu ta Musalman. Truk ay chuk pan panun parzanav; Soy chay Sahibas sati zaniy zan. (Shiv or Allah - lives everywhere; do not divide Hindu from Muslim. Use your sense to recognise yourself; that is the true way to find God.) Thus sang Kashmir's greatest mystic poetess in one of her thousands of shlokas or waakhs that are a part of the folklore of this land. If she was Lalla Arifa for the Muslims, she was Lalleshwari for the Hindus. But for all the Kashmiris, she remains, even after 800 years, their own much-loved Lal Ded, the symbol as well as the source of Kashmiriyat. It is only in Kashmir that the Rishi order recognises Hindu and Muslim spiritual masters alike. Nooruddin Shaikh, the greatest saint of Kashmir, is also known as Nand Rishi. His appeal to the people 'to break the sword and forge it into a sickle' reads as if it is coined not only for Kashmir of today but also for the world of today. These saints are remembered and revered even today because, Kashmir, like the rest of India, places saints and social reformers on a higher pedestal than kings, shahs and sultans. And if Kashmir does adore a king, it adores one like Zainul Abedin or Bud Shah, who led Kashmir into its Golden Age in the 15th century. Here was an ideal ruler whose second name was justice; who led a simple life and refused to touch the state treasury for his personal needs; who honoured pandits and maulvis alike; and who founded a Dar-ul-Aloom, equivalent to a university, which patronised learning in all branches. In our own times, poets like the Shayar-e-Kashmir Ghulam Ahmed Mehjoor have forcefully voiced the message of peace and brotherhood. Today I would like to recall one of Mehjoor's couplets, which I had quoted in my Independence Day speech in 2001. Clearly, if Muslim is milk, Hindu is sugar; let the two mix together; Discard discord and love each other. Didn't Swami Vivekananda also express the same thought, after he returned from a memorable visit to Kashmir? Replying to a letter from a maulvi, Swamiji wrote his famous words: 'I see in my mind's eye the future perfect India rising out of this chaos and strife, glorious and invincible, with Vedanta brain and Islam body.' I have recalled certain names and facts from Kashmir's history only to underscore my belief that the tradition of brotherhood is not something that belongs to Kashmir's past. It is also a part of its living present. The outpouring of shock, grief, and anger that marked Kashmiri Muslims' response to the recent massacre of pandits at Nadimarg is just one example of this. It is the responsibility of academicians, scholars, artists, cultural personalities, mass media and political workers to highlight the age-old traditions of communal harmony and national unity in Kashmir and the rest of India. We should affirm that death and destruction cannot always claim supremacy over life and creation, that darkness cannot keep light away forever. In affirming this, we should take inspiration from the motto of your university. Tamaso ma jyotirgamaya. (Lead us, O Lord, from Darkness to Light.) It is a highly appropriate motto. On the one hand, it captures the timeless wisdom of Kashmir, the land from where Khudayi Noor or the Heavenly Light is being radiated since time immemorial. On the other, it also reflects the historic transition from darkness to light that is now taking place in your state. My current visit to Kashmir has reinforced my belief that darkness and despair are, indeed, departing; that Light and Hope are, indeed, arriving. Indeed, one such bright ray of hope was visible when the people of Jammu & Kashmir expressed their will in a heroic and unmistakable manner in the Assembly elections held six months ago. Through the power of democracy, they gave a ringing verdict against the militancy and terrorist violence unleashed against us from across the border for the past decade and more. Defying threats and violence, they turned out in impressive numbers to exercise their franchise. As far as the Central government is concerned, we fulfilled our promise that the elections would be transparent, free and fair. They were indeed deemed to be so by the whole world, except those who have their own ulterior agenda to project the elections in a different light. The verdict has clearly shown that the vast majority of the people are fed up with violence. They want to live a normal life, a life of dignity. They voted for change, good governance, faster development, more employment opportunities and, above all, for peace to return to their state. They reposed their faith in our democratic institutions and electoral processes. They will not be disappointed. The elections and their aftermath have given us a great opportunity to build upon the positive elements in the current situation. The newly elected government has taken several good initiatives and measures. The Central government is committed to working sincerely with the state government and give it all reasonable assistance. We have also started a process of talks with the elected representatives and other sections of public opinion in the state. I believe - and I would like one and all in Jammu & Kashmir to share this belief - that there is no problem which cannot be resolved peacefully and democratically. Today, our sincere commitment to bring peace and normalcy to Jammu & Kashmir makes me admit that we have often faltered in our journey towards this goal. It was sometimes forgotten that democracy is too delicate a plant to be subjected to manipulation and mishandling. We must learn from these mistakes and resolve not to repeat them. We should look to the future with a constructive approach, and not remain obsessed with the acrimonies and unrealistic goals of the past. Today, I would also like to caution that, in order to prevent the youth from being misled or driven into negative activities, we must ensure that they do not lose faith in our institutions, in the fairness of our systems and in the rule of law. Therefore, good governance and an effective check on corruption and nepotism are of prime importance in the task of nation building - and building a new Jammu & Kashmir. Our political leadership, cutting across party lines, should also see that our youth do not get carried away by ethnic or religious extremism or fundamentalist ideologies. My young fri-ends, your state, like the rest of India, is beckoned by a bright future. Our country is making rapid strides in agriculture, industry, infrastructure and services. What has especially astonished the international community is the remarkable progress that our country has made in science and technology, and in frontier areas of the Knowledge Economy. One such icon of the Knowledge Economy, Shri N.R. Narayan Murthy, is with us today. I appreciate your university's decision to honour him with D. Litt. I hope that he and his fraternity would suitably assist promotion of employment and entrepreneurship in IT in Jammu & Kashmir. The main focus of the reforms agenda pursued by the government is creation of large-scale employment, self-employment and business opportunities in diverse areas of our economy. Today it is neither necessary nor feasible to seek only government jobs. Therefore, I would like young graduates from this university to fully seize these opportunities in India and abroad. Indeed, I would like to see more employment opportunities created in Jammu & Kashmir itself. In recent years, there has been a welcome trend of more and more young students from Kashmir going to universities and colleges in different parts of the country to pursue higher education. I would like the UGC, ministry of human resource development, and non-governmental educational institutions to create many more opportunities of this kind for students from this state. Your vice chancellor has rightly pointed out the inadequacy of Kashmir Valley, with a population of over 50 lakh, having only one university. Today I would like to assure that the idea of establishing more professional institutions and Kendriya Vidyalayas would receive our serious and sympathetic consideration. Here, too, I call upon reputed non-governmental institutions in the rest of the country to come forward. I was in Sikkim last week. A prestigious educational institution from Manipal in Karnataka has established a medical college there. The Centre and the state government can encourage similar initiatives in your state. I am pleased to know that yours is the only university in India that has a dedicated Centre for Central Asian Studies. When I look at Kashmir, I find that both geographically and historically, it links India to the lands and peoples of a very important part of Asia. We are deeply interested in strengthening our ties of friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation with all of them. In particular, we are adding a new dimension to our external relations by deepening and broadening our traditionally friendly ties with all the countries of Central Asia. We call it the 'New Silk Route Initiative'. I was in Kazakhstan last year to attend the first ever summit meeting to discuss issues pertaining to security and cooperation in Central Asia. I would like the academics working in your university to make a solid contribution to this effort. My dear students and teachers, as I said at the beginning of my address, this convocation is taking place at an important point - almost a turning point - in the history of Jammu & Kashmir. India is a vast country with a rich diversity of religion, language, and ethnicity. But there is a silken civilisational thread that has woven a priceless unity in this diversity. The same thread of unity also runs through the three main regions of your state - Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh. Our secular democracy has further strengthened our nationhood. The destiny of the people of Jammu & Kashmir is inseparably tied to the destiny of India. Let there be no doubt that a bright future awaits us. I call upon the students and teachers of this great university, and all the people of this beautiful state, to march towards this bright future, together with your sisters and brothers in the rest of India, with hope in your hearts and unity in your steps. Thank you. [Atal Behari Vajpayee speech]

 

Return to the Archives 2003 Index Page

Return to Home Page