15 Aug : Addressing the nation on the 64th Independence Day from the ramparts of historic Red Fort, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh emphasised that the Indian democracy has the “generosity and flexibility” to address concerns of any group and calls upon dissatisfied groups in JK and NE to adopt democratic means for their welfare.
He expressed “deep regret” over the recent cycle of violence in Jammu and Kashmir in which young men lost their lives.
“The years of violence should now end. Such violence would not benefit anyone. I believe that India’s democracy has the generosity and flexibility to be able to address the concerns of any area or group in the country,” Dr Singh said.
In an apparent reference to the economic blockade of Manipur, the Prime Minister said such “unpleasant incidents” can only harm the country.
While expressing deep regret for loss of lives on the streets of Kashmir in the last two months, Dr Singh left no one in doubt that the state is an integral part of India.
“Within this framework, we are ready to move forward in any talks which would increase the partnership of the common man in governance and also enhance their welfare,” he said as he unfurled the national tricolour for the seventh consecutive Independence Day.
“We are ready to talk to every person or group which abjures violence,” Dr Singh said.
Recalling that he recently participated in a meeting with political parties from Jammu and Kashmir, he said, “We will endeavour to take this process forward.”
In his 35-minute speech, 77-year-old Singh said the government wants to resolve all differences with Pakistan but made it clear that the dialogue cannot go far unless terrorism emanating from there ends.
With the Manipur blockade by Naga outfits in recent months weighing heavily on his mind, Prime Minister appealed to political parties and groups from the region to come for dialogue to resolve disputes.
Dr Singh said his government was ready to take forward every process of talks that could lead to progress in resolution of problems of the region.
“The North Eastern part of our country has been witness to some unpleasant incident in the recent months. I would like to convey to all political parties and groups of the North East that disputes in the name of state and tribe can only harm all of us,” he said.
“Discussion and dialogue are the only options to resolve complex issues. As far as the central government is concerned, we are ready to take forward every process of talks which could lead to progress in resolution of problems,” he said.
Noting that the government had a special responsibility towards the North Eastern states, the Prime Minister said it would try to live up to that responsibility.
The Naga groups had recently blocked national highways for nearly two months to protest Manipur government’s decision not to allow NSCN (I-M) leader Thuingaleng Muivah to visit his native village leading to scarcity of essential commodities including fuel.
He talked about the “serious challenge” posed by Naxalism to internal security and stressed the need for rising above “personal and political interests” to deal with the menace firmly through Centre-state cooperation.
At the same time, he said the government was ready to talk to Naxals if they abjure violence and emphasised that tribals should get benefits from development.
With a host of leaders, including UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi and BJP Parliamentary Party Chairman L K Advani besides ministerial colleagues and diplomats in the audience, Singh said the government was working to create a new India where everyone would have access to better education, healthcare, food security and other benefits.
However, Dr Singh, who has been under attack over rising prices of food items and other essentials, acknowledged that inflation had hurt the poor people more and said the government was making every effort to control it.