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Assam (India) Lecture Tour Report - The Role of India’s North East in Peace and Development

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Vijay Mehta was a keynote speaker at a conference in Guwahati, India on 6th/7th January 2017, organised by FASS UK and India. He was accompanied to India with his wife Shanti Mehta. They were welcomed at the airport by Rini Kakati, Co-ordinator of FASS, her son Vicki and Bobby Sharma, Secretary of FASS, Assam.

The Conference at Taj Vivanta Hotel

The conference titled, “The Role of India’s North East in Peace and Development” was held at Taj Vivanta Hotel, Guwahati, Assam. The conference started with a welcome address and introduction by Rini Kakati convener, who explained the work of FASS and thanked the audience and supporters who attended the meeting at a short notice.

At the conference, Vijay spoke for half an hour covering issues of violence, political unrest and a strategy for peace – dialogue, integration, improvement of Law and Order and a Marshall Plan for development in Assam and the North East.

The lecture was followed by a vibrant Q/A session in which distinguished audience participated to discuss various issues relating to Assam and North East of India. V K Basu talked about negative and positive peace, Dilip Barua about development and human resources, Goswami about political integration, Jayant Burman and Bobby Sharma about degitisation and technology for peace and Wasbir Hussain about peace rallies, European Union and ASEAN and Bidyananda Barkakoty who spoke about tea growers and their contribution to peace.

Vijay Mehta’s TV Interview by Wasbir Hussain

Same day prior to the conference, Vijay Mehta was interviewed by Wasbir Hussain, host, Talk Time and News Live. In the wide ranging interview, Wasbir asked Vijay questions about peace, development, threats of terror, insurgencies and security concerns in the North East of India.

Among the answers, Vijay suggested political integration with the rest of India,  the necessity of implementing a Marshall Plan for growth and development for the North East region. He also suggested free trade and partnership with all its neighbouring countries – Thailand, China, Myanmar, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Nepal.

On the continuing insurgency and confrontation between the many factions and the Indian Government for the past 52 years, Vijay suggested dialogue, diplomacy and peace accord to resolve the long running conflict in the North East which is not only creating fear in the troubled region but is instrumental in large number of deaths and untold suffering to the civilian population.

Vijay emphasised the urgent need of finding a North East Gandhi who is home grown and has the passion, drive and focus to bring peace to North East as once Mahatma Gandhi non-violently took on the might of the British Empire and won independence of India, without shedding a drop of blood.

Networking with distinguished people

Vijay had the privilege of meeting many distinguished people including Atul Bora, Minister of Agriculture, Government of Assam, Dr. J N Khatnair, Subit R Chowdhory, Vikram Jeet Kakati, Wasbir Hussain, Prasanjit Deb, Mubarak Bari, Bobby Sharma, Samudra Gupta Kashyap, Bidyananda Barkakoty and Jayanta Barman and many more.

At the end of the conference, Vijay presented his latest book, Peace Beyond Borders to distinguished guests. The Uniting for Peace [www.unitingforpeace.com] latest newsletter and other literature was distributed to the audience. The whole conference was filmed and it was a great opportunity to meet and exchange information about the problems of the North East and its solutions and also to see the distinctive culture and history of Assam and the North East region of India.

Recommendations for a Safer and Better North East

As an observation of the whole visit, Vijay gave recommendations which should be taken into consideration for a safer and better future for North East.

  • First and foremost, follow the 10 steps of Vijay Mehta’s latest book Peace Beyond Borders which analysed European Union’s role in bringing peace in Europe for the last 70 years. It is arguably is the most successful peace project in the world and have made war unthinkable on the European continent. These ten steps should be replicated in the North East of India to bring peace in the region. These ten steps are below:

    1. Enshrined Democracy and Rule of Law
    2. Economic Truce
    3. Open Borders and Human Ties
    4. Soft Power and Shared Values
    5. Permanent Discussion, Dialogue and Diplomacy
    6. Financial Incentives and Support       
    7. Veto and Consensus Building
    8. Resistance to External Interference
    9. Rules, Human Rights and Multiculturalism
    10. Mutual Trust and Peaceful Coexistence

  • The second suggestion is to host youth peace leadership conferences, lectures and seminars. Train peace leaders who will build and maintain peace in all the states of Assam and North East to end the long running conflict by different factions.
  • Acknowledge the Tea Growers of Assam’s contribution to peace in the region and follow their example of working in peace and harmony.
  • Preserve and protect North East culture, diversity and beautiful environment from destruction.
  • Make the North East a hub for thriving trade and growth by having free trade agreements with Indian government and all the neighbouring countries.

It’s time to think big and bold, to work for peace, development in the region leading to prosperity and harmony.

Kaziranga National Park Visit

The host Rini Kakati and her son Vicki took Shanti and Vijay to a day trip to Kaziranga National Park. It was a joy to see one-horned-rhino, Asian elephant and beautiful Neelkanth (Indian Roller) bird in their natural habitat. Some of the other things we saw at the park were wild water buffalo, grey headed fish eagle, pelican, heron, swamp deer, golden langur, black-necked stork and many other species.

However, the road to go inside the park and coming back were very bumpy and require immediate repair and improvement in infrastructure to attract much needed tourism to this natural lush green habitat of beauty and splendour. The area is also important for not only conservation and forest protection but also to save endangered species from poachers who kill the animals for profit.

Before coming to UK, Shanti and Vijay stayed with their son Sanjay and his family in Delhi for a few days and enjoyed their hospitality.

Thanks to Rini Kakati, team of FASS and many others for making the visit to Guwahati, Assam, India a memorable one.

To read the full speech, click here