1. Let me start by thanking the PHD chambers for organizing this event. For a seventy year old issue, I have been given 15 minutes to expound on the way ahead!
2. I can do no better than use the motto of the PHD chambers itself — Progress, Harmony and Development — to sum it up. These three words represent the way ahead, vision and aspiration for Kashmir.
3. The issue is how i won’t get into the political history and the reasons for not being able to achieve these basic objectives which are the norm for any society. I think we have been barking up the wrong tree.
4. I will not make a sales pitch here nor will I ask you for investments. That will happen. It will be a consequence of something else which I want to speak about today: your interest in Kashmir and its people, and their lives.
5. For, Kashmir is not just a political problem, but a social issue. Our society has been ravaged and we need to address that first. It is in this we seek your help.
6. In my opinion, to achieve the desired way ahead, we need to do three things: First, Introspection by us, the people of Kashmir. We need to talk among ourselves before we talk to others. Second, Interaction between people and not just between and with governments. In the language of the information technology, not just do G2G but B2C and C2C!
7. Indeed, the Chief Minister in one of her media interactions at Indian Express “Adda” articulated the importance of civil society interactions. When asked about the appointment of the interlocutor by the Union government, she welcomed it, adding that “every visitor, every tourist to the state plays his/her role as an interlocutor”.
8. Third is Inclusion; inclusion as a part of the national and global development not as an aberration or a deviation but as a place of promise and prospect. As one of my colleagues once said, “People often make the mistake of thinking that the world is a part of Kashmir; the fact is that Kashmir is and must be seen as a part of the World.
9. In this context, the travel advisories of various countries effectively function as social boycott. It prevents us from being a part of the World build capacities to deal with political and other attendant issues.
10. It is not that our aspirations have been wrong or that our anxieties are misplaced. That is not so. The only issue is – and that is the real dilemma — is that in our case, in the case of Kashmiris, our aspirations are the cause of our anxieties.
11. This is so because our “individual” aspirations are not in line with our “collective” societal aspirations. Or perhaps it is the other way round. There is disconnect between what we aspire for ourselves as individuals and what we aspire for ourselves as a community and a society.
12. Pick up a lad from Pulwama and he aspires for nothing more and nothing different from a boy from Pathankot or Patna.
13. No one talks about this anymore. We seem to have lost a sense of the real. As Baudelaire said, “Humanity has been lost in a forest of symbols”.
14. A normal life, exemplified by “Roti, Kapda aur Makaan” or “Bijli, Sadak, Paani” are of course, everyone’s entitlements; but in the kind of an socio-economic system and the political context within which we operate, even these have become aspirations for the people of Kashmir.
15. A job does not have to be “Naukri” funded by the Government; a business does not have to be an enterprise s profitable because of a subsidy; a venture does not have to be successful on the back of tax and electricity concessions.
16. Why we are not able to do it today is because we have lost confidence in our capabilities; in our creativity, in our own comprehension to run our own affairs.
17. We now talk about ourselves in a way that portrays us, the “Kashmiris”, only as victims. This defensive attitude has made us incapable of thinking positively and acting honestly.
18. Something good can come out of this paroxysm of grief and tragedy only if we, the people of Kashmir, reconsider what’s really relevant, and what is less so, in our life. Only if this is done can we emerge from the deep political and socio-economic crisis that pervades us.
19. We need to think of ourselves not as victims, but as normal human beings. We have and have had lives; unhappy and tortuous as these may be. We have a history; tormented as it may be. We have faces and names; sad as these may be.
20. We have made ourselves into a story. We are not a story. Or even a series of endless stories. Worst is that and at some stage, this story of ours has got fictionalized. The result is that we are now living in fiction. To alter this and live in reality has to be the real and only aspiration of our youth.
21. Our society has to hear the yearning of the youth, the language of which is contemporary. In today’s globalised and integrated world our social idiom cannot be isolationist; nor can our methods be medieval.
22. Don’t see Kashmir as a conflict state; it is not. See it as a society in turmoil and transition which is trying to rediscover its moorings. It is in this that interactions such as this one can help. I am very grateful to the PHD chambers for organizing this event and it will go a long way in finding the way ahead.