t is heartening that Zoram Research Foundation, in collaboration with Indian Council of Social Science Research - North Eastern Region and Mizoram University has jointly organized the \'National Seminar on Peace & Development in Mizoram : Challenges & Prospects\' on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of Mizoram Peace Accord today, the 30th June 2011.
I congratulate the organizers for their initiative. It is indeed an occasion to remind ourselves of the importance of PEACE for sustainable development.
Signing of the Mizo Accord between the Government of India and the Mizo National Front so far remains one of the few success stories in the country. Security experts even refer to it as \"the only insurgency in the world which ended with the stroke of a pen.\" The Memorandum of Settlement signed on 30th June, 1986 is, in fact, a watershed in the history of socio-political evolution on Mizoram.
PEACE is the eternal and substantive fact of human life. Violence is only an aberration. The basic foundation of all four main religions of the world - Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Buddhism is PEACE, peace that is universal, peace for humanity at large. Indian politico-cultural tradition was built on the foundation of Love, Brotherhood and Peace.
How then, one may ask, violence, which is the anti-thesis to all these great values of life, has erupted on such a wide scale in various corners of India? One needs to look deeper into the psychological, ideological and socio-economic causes that have prompted people to resort to violent agitation avowedly to get their grievances redressed. Of course, not all violent agitations are inspired by ideology, though some do appear to have a cause, a goal. It is, however, another matter that such a cause or goal may not be universally acceptable. For instance, the conflicts witnessed in the North East for decades seem to carry with them an ideal or goal. The projected goal is to preserve ethnic identities, perceived to be in danger of being swamped by culture alien to the people, and to undo the alleged wrong done to them by years of neglect with the resultant economic deprivation. The fear or the sense of deprivation may be genuine. But the methods adopted to express it are not acceptable to the civilized society.
However, the truth is that lack of proper appreciation of the social, political and demographic peculiarities of the region is to a large extent, responsible for many of the troubles and turmoil that have been plaguing the region and straining the national fabric.
Without peace, there cannot be development. Ask any Mizo who had witnessed the political upheaval between 1966 and 1986 and he will tell you why! The administration could have possibly been more sensitive to the issues raised by the aggrieved section of the people at that time and could have handled them with greater foresight and imagination. The two decades of insurgency in Mizoram was a result of the insensitive approach of the government of that time which failed to assuage the hurt feelings of the Mizos who had suffered a great deal due to MAUTAM - the gregarious flowering of bamboo followed by rodent upsurge and famine. Insensitivity and negligence on the part of the power that be is also one of the causes of the Maoist problem in some of the States. What needs to be highlighted is the fact that PROGRESS demands as much a peaceful environment as good governance.
Twenty years of insurgency and violence had crippled the social and economic life. Hundreds of civilians and security men lost lives. Villages were shattered and villagers displaced. PEACE was the first casualty. Fortunately for us, the Mizoram CHURCHES and other civil societies prevailed and Peace was restored. As they say, the rest is history!
One lesson that we Mizo have learnt is this - for peace efforts to be successful, there has to be a spirit of dedication and sacrifice on one hand, and the realization of the futility of violence, on the other. Both sides have to demonstrate a spirit of give and take. Also needed is a committed bureaucracy. Fortunately for Mizoram, there was an enabling environment.
Coming now to the crucial issue of Challenges and Prospects, I want to say that success of all development and peace initiative, in the final analysis, depends on the way the government goes about implementing its policies and programmes. Intentions, however good, will remain merely a wish list unless there is good governance to realize the goals. To quote the former IMF Economist Prof. Paolo Mano, \"a country that is able to provide transparent and good governance can quadruple its GDP.\" The challenges to-day in Mizoram both for the government and the civil society is to nurture and sustain peace and order as well as to accelerate the pace of socio-economic progress which can remove the scars of violence and promote social order. A responsive government and an alert and informed civil society can help meet that challenge. A heavy price had to be paid for the return of peace. A heavier price will have to be paid to sustain it for the greater good of all.
About the prospects of successfully meeting challenge, I am quite optimistic. The post-accord changes in the politico-social and economic scenario that are palpable as also the response and enthusiasm of the people give me this optimism. After all, it is the combination of a growth oriented, committed government, a contented people and a vigilant society is the biggest guarantee to meet any challenge. I believe, we can do it.
The country is now preparing for the 12th Five Year Plan. What is required is a new paradigm relevant to our needs and socio-economic concerns. A new growth path, involving participatory planning that can ensure inclusive development is what is needed. North East India must dream big! Because if we don\'t dream big, we can achieve little. There must be a vision. As the Bible says, \"Where there is no vision, people perish.\" Development, after all, in an attempt to create the future - first in the mind followed by action.
For decades together, North East India has been in the news for all the wrong reasons, particularly insurgency. We need to create more opportunities for the people, particularly the youth for an inclusive and secure development.
I have shared these thoughts with you for whatever they are worth. Once again, I thank the organizers for giving me the opportunity and the audience for your patience.