The speech that led to the sacking of J&K minister Haseeb Drabu came at an event organised by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi on March 9. Excerpts:
.. I don’t want to honestly do a sales pitch, asking you to invest, because you know where to go, when to go. To my mind, Kashmir is a pre-sold destination. The only word that has to go out is that it is peaceful… So we don’t need to sell Kashmir… But what is it that we can do? And I think I want to say something very different from what’s been said here, because this is a rare gathering of people from different spectrums, not just investors.
The first thing that we need to do is introspection. I think we, people living in J&K and nationally, need to introspect on what is happening, why is it happening and how can we solve this. Somewhere down the line, I think not just now, but it’s been almost 30 years that we have lost confidence in ourselves. I’m talking of the people of J&K. Somewhere, we have lost confidence of creativity… Somewhere down the line… there has been a shake-up, which gets manifested in different ways. For some, it reflects in trust deficit; for some, it reflects in confidence failure. We need to talk to ourselves, before we talk to others… Our aspirations, individually, are not very different from aspirations any of you have. It’s only when it comes to a societal aspiration, that there are differences… a disconnect between what we aspire for ourselves as individuals and what we aspire for our society and community… It doesn’t take very much to ensure that every boy or girl in the state gets what every other boy in the country does. Why has it become so difficult for us to manage this? And somehow I hold not just ourselves and the country but everyone around responsible for this. Because somewhere — I don’t know why and how, or perhaps I do but this is not the occasion to get into that — we have been isolated.
…The second part of it is interaction between people… This is the kind of forum that we need more often… Not just in terms of you-come-and-invest… The issue that pervades us in the Valley and in the state is not about government to government, it’s about civil society… I think we have struggled for the last 70 years to try and bring sustainable, durable peace because it’s been left to the governments. I think it’s time that civil society and people take the lead, and institutions like PHD Chamber of Commerce take the lead and start the process so that it becomes a C-to-C. Customer to customer, as in people to people…
Read | Who is Haseeb Drabu?
I am reminded of what the chief minister said and that is a few months back; she doesn’t speak very much, she’s a doer. An interlocutor had been appointed by the Government of India, and she was doing an Express Adda, where somebody asked her that how do you react to the gentleman being appointed as interlocutor? She said, well it’s good, but for me every tourist or everyone who visits J&K is a much more powerful interlocutor. And that really is the message that we want to convey… Peace is not about investment. It is not about anything else. If you interact as we have done today, it sets off a series of events…
Honestly speaking, I am sharing this with you: we have made a story of ourselves and over time this story has become fiction. We need to address that. We live in a world where somehow, somewhere — a friend and a colleague of mine said this once — we started believing or we do believe that the world is a part of Kashmir. The world is not a part of Kashmir, Kashmir is a part of the world. Let’s understand that. I think that’s a critical thing whereby the whole process of engagement must start. We can’t live in fiction for very long…
We may lead our happy lives, yes we do. Our history may be taught to us, yes it is. We do have lives, unhappy as they might be. We run businesses, profitable… So we have done our bit, but I think somewhere, the world bypassed us or we let them bypass us, and we got into a bit of a quandary. That quandary needs to be resolved in a way for us to be able to catch up with the rest of the world.
And once you do that, that you interact, the third and final part of what I think is important to understand is inclusion. We need to be included, not just on your investment agendas. Do that of course, and I am very confident that people will do it because that’s how investors function. They will go where their money can be made and there isn’t a better state in India than J&K.
But we need to be included in terms of the concerns. It can’t be just a political issue. What you’re seeing and this is the final point I want to leave with you, a thought with you. Don’t see J&K as a conflict state and as a political issue. It’s a society which has social issues right now. We are trying to find our own space. And we are going through a process, which many other countries are going through. It’s not like we are the only ones. It’s not a political issue as far as I can see. I think we have been barking up the wrong tree talking about for the last 50, 70 years talking about the politics of it, the political situation, how it has never been improved. I think we also seriously need to correct in terms of how it’s a society in search for itself.
… And I will appeal to your sensibilities, as individuals not as investors, try and look at us and you will find some very interesting opportunities where you will not just make money, you will have a lot of fun and you will enjoy yourselves…”