(Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar gives the keynote address at the ‘Strength in Diversity: North East Indigenous People’s Conference’, on September 7, 2017.)
People belonging to all different groups of North East have come together on one platform. I think this is a new beginning for the North East.
For the very first time, there is a reconnect of people of this region, which is so diverse. I understand about 300 different indigenous tribes, groups, languages, and religions have been flourishing in this part of the world. Each one of you is a heritage of the country and also of the world; I would like to remind you this.
Our world, which is full of diversity, needs to be protected. Religious, cultural, and ethnic diversity is as much about heritage as biodiversity. While there is a lot of talk of preserving biodiversity, very little is being done in order to preserve the cultural diversity. This is one of the reasons perhaps in the past many different groups have taken to arms to preserve one’s identity.
It is understandable that when the prayers fell on deaf ears, one would take up arms as a last recourse. But today, we have moved from guns to garlands and from bombs to bouquets. I think it is a wonderful occasion for all the groups who have come forward to bring peace, for prosperity is impossible without peace. The aspiration of each of the groups who have gone into militancy, is prosperity and happiness for the people of the group, isn’t it? Why would you take to guns without a reason, without a cause? And the reason and cause are to bring prosperity and happiness to your own ethnicity, your own people, and happiness and prosperity cannot come with conflict. It has to come with cooperation. This realization will open a new chapter in the history of the North East.
As a group, we are diverse and that diversity is our strength. Honoring diversity and finding the commonality between all of us to enrich and empower people of the region is the purpose of this conference. To bring people together for development, for peaceful coexistence and to create an atmosphere of celebration is something that this region has been deprived for too long.
My heart goes out for all those who have suffered years of violence in this region. Many youths have lost precious years of their lives in the jungles and the forests. Many of them have left colleges and schools; 38 years is a long time for Assam and all of the North East to have suffered.
Bringing an end to this era is what we are seeing in this conference today. Many other groups who have understood that there are people to care for them, who are ready to listen to them and there are enough compassion and love on this planet to care and share, have given a new hope to the lives of the people.
So, 50 million people of the region, I am sure, will benefit by all of us coming together. All the seven sister states and all these organizations who are fighting for their identities, I would like to assure them you are an asset to the nation, you are an asset to the world. So, let us move with peace, understanding, patience, and perseverance towards a more developed region where there is harmony, where there is no poverty and where there is 100 percent education.
Constructive work takes some time, it cannot happen overnight. Destruction can happen overnight, but to construct something, it takes time. So let us have the courage and confidence that we are in for a better world, for a better society in the coming years.
I would like you to look at life from a broader perspective. See, life is so short. Another 15-20 years, 50 years maximum, after that we won’t be on this planet, we will all be gone. Before we leave this planet, we want to leave a better society behind us for the younger generation, for those beautiful kids in whose eyes there is hope, in whose eyes you find dreams. They deserve a violence-free society, they deserve a poverty-free and disease-free society, fearless society and it is up to you and me, for all of us to create a society which is free from fear, frustration, disease, and poverty. This cannot happen if militancy continues.
Those two or three groups who are left out from this conference, I would appeal to them - let us all extend our hands and reach out to them - please do come. Let us sit, talk and embark on a new chapter in the history of the North East, which is of peace and prosperity for all. The children of future generations deserve a better world and it is our duty to give them a better world. What we are being deprived of, we should give them - better education, better infrastructure.
Life is like a tree, where the roots have to be very strong and the shoots have to be new. Life is a combination of old and new. Our roots are our ancient traditions, cultures, language and our customs; we must respect and maintain them. At the same time, we must be scientific in our approach, attitude, and in our temper and develop the modern ambiguities of society maintaining our ancient values. Then we can definitely have a better society – a society full of vibrancy, modesty, honesty, and values.
One inherent quality in the youth of the North East, I would say, is that they are hard working, smart and have enormous potential to excel, especially in the field of sports and technology. Many youth from the North East stay at our headquarters in Bengaluru. I tell you, given an opportunity they can prove that they can excel and are second to none. They are so good in sports and if we can develop our sports abilities here in the North East, our country can have many Olympic and other medals in the international area.
From my heart, I congratulate all these different groups and their leaders from all over the North East who have assembled here. They have shown the magnanimity, kept the trust that truth and peace will always prevail and have heeded our appeal to come together, away from militancy to dialogue and discussion of all issues concerning the people of North East.
I, once again, appreciate the magnanimity, the broad-mindedness, and the big-heartedness. In spite of all the sacrifices that cadres have done for decades, they are ready to look into a new chapter, a new angle, a new vision of violence free and stress-free society, and a peaceful approach to the problems of the North East.