|Tsona Rinpoche who recently passed away|
‘Our weather conditions are determined by the lofty Himalayan ranges, 90 percent of the fresh water to India comes from the Himalayan region. If the Himalayan region is protected, then India’s future is bright. But if the Himalayan region is in danger, it will be a disaster for our country.’
‘Every politician has his own trait. Modiji is unique in many senses. His idea about anything is precise and sharp. His working style is focused. Any decision is fast and quick.’
‘People were looking for leadership for the country. For a long time it was perceptible to everybody that India lacked a leader. Without strong leadership you cannot get a direction for the country.’
Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju speaks of his plans in the second and final part of an exclusive interview to Claude Arpi and Sheela Bhatt.
In this final part of his interview, he speaks of the policies of the Modi government for the Himalayan belt and what Modi’s election as the prime minister means.
A few questions related to Arunachal Pradesh:
Tsona (TG) Rinpoche recently passed away in very tragic circumstances and his funeral witnessed some law and order problems. Would you like to comment? Do you see nefarious forces behind this tragic incident?
It is difficult to pinpoint the reason for the tragic death of T.G. Rinpoche. But it’s a tragedy for all of us. He was young, a highly revered lama and he took this extreme step. I could not really come to terms with what might be the reason for that.
It’s not really comprehensible in my mind. It is a great loss, not just for Arunachal, but the entire Himalayan region because he is the president of the Himalayan Buddhist Association and so many organisations. Rinpoche was running so many institutes. He was the most influential Buddhist leader of the country. This is really unfortunate.
Do you think the Chinese could use his demise and his reincarnation? Tsona is located in Tibet, isn’t it?
Yes, Tsona is around 70 km off Tawang. About the Chinese, I cannot really comment. I hope a controversy like the Karmapa or the Panchen Lama doesn’t happen. Especially because Rinpoche was from my own region, I hope his reincarnation takes place in Mon Tawang region (Tawang and West Kameng districts) or in any of the Himalayan Buddhist regions within Indian territory.
That’s my wish, but these have serious religious connotations. I cannot really apprehend what could have happened. It’s difficult to say. But it was a tragedy, an unbearable loss.
In Arunachal, you have people who are either anti-dams or pro-dams. It is an issue that has divided the people in Arunachal and in Uttarakhand. Any comments?
In Arunachal, the whole hydro power issue has been mishandled. We need power, but the way the projects were given away raised suspicion in the minds of the people. They have become suspicious because you can award two or three projects but you cannot have the entire basin in one go. It was so haphazardly done that people started objecting.
Personally, I’m not in favour of big dams; but I’m in favour of small or medium dams that are environmentally sustainable, can generate revenue for the state and produce power for the country.
India is a power deficient country and I hope that we generate a good amount of hydro electricity power from Arunachal, but certainly not by tapping those ultra mega power projects in our state which are not good for the local people, as well as the state.
What about the diversion of the Brahmaputra which the Chinese have constantly denied since 2006? Though they are still denying that any such type of project is on the cards, it appears that some engineers in China are still thinking about it.
The original plan was to be carried out in the 1950s. Today, their western route involves the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) river. This is known as the western diversion. Now, whether it is going to materialise or not is still not very clear.
It has been reported that their project was going on, however the dams that they are constructing today on the Tsangpo river are only run-of-the river dams.
I’m speaking of the big one in Metok area, north of Upper Siang district…
We have to understand this from two points. If they’re going to generate 30,000 megawatts at Metok, then they cannot divert the river. The water has to fall down (to produce electricity); if they divert the river they cannot generate that kind of electricity.
This is a technical issue: once the river is diverted from the Great Bend (of the Brahmaputra), to then generate that kind of electricity seems difficult.
Recently, there was a plan to use the 30,000 megawatts generated in Metok to pump the water up towards Gansu and Qinghai provinces.
If that technology exists and if they’re planning to use it, then it is dangerous for us. We hope that the Chinese government will only take such steps after consultation with India. Both countries are planning to move together, to have a better understanding.
When both these huge countries have an understanding and a plan to move together, I hope that the Chinese side will not take such extreme steps.
Any comment on Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's statement that China was giving stapled visas to people of Arunachal ‘out of goodwill’?
That was quite a complicated statement. I could not really understand the intention or the meaning of what the foreign minister said. He wanted to sound positive towards us, but (China’s) action is not exactly that. But I will not be able to comment on what he had intended till our external affairs ministry comes out with a statement.
The question of having a ministry for the Himalayas has come up. In the Lok Sabha, your party has 11 out of 13 seats from the region. What are your views on a Himalayan ministry or how it could help tackling environmental and security issues in the region?
The entire Himalayan region is not just sacred to us, but it is environmentally very crucial for the subcontinent. Our weather conditions are determined by the lofty Himalayan ranges, 90 percent of the fresh water to India comes from the Himalayan region. If the Himalayan region is protected, then India’s future is bright. But if the Himalayan region is in danger, it will be a disaster for our country.
When we talk about having an authority or a ministry for the Himalayan region, it will deal with every aspect of the region. This whole Himalayan region has a unique identity of its own.
Never before has the Himalayan region been given the importance that our government has given: by cleaning the Ganga or taking care of the pristine, yet very fragile environmental condition of the whole of Himalayan region. So as an MP from the Himalayan region I’m very hopeful that a road map will be laid out and action will start very soon.
Could you envisage having a group of MPs in the Lok Sabha dealing with the Himalayas?
Yes, during the 14th Lok Sabha, I was the convener of the Himalayan parliamentary forum. I have already dealt with this subject long back. Now I’m the minister myself, I will bring some synergy with the members of Parliament for the entire Himalayan belt, Ladakh, Mandi belt in Himachal, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
We are definitely going to have a sitting because our problems are similar; if we sit together and come up with a strategy, then it will help the government in formulating policies.
The PM said recently that all the ministries should clarify the division of work between the Cabinet minister and the minister of state. During the last 10 years, all the MoS of the United Progressive Alliance government were not given enough work by their ministers. What is your position?
I don’t think that we will face this kind of situation. In my case, my senior minister, Rajnath Singh, is party president and I have been his colleague, as one of the office-bearers of the party. We have a long working relationship; now we are both in the home ministry and I’m very comfortable with him.
We are working together, for every presentation, with security agencies, for developmental schemes taken up by our ministry. My senior minister has made me very comfortable in the ministry. In fact, I should complement the synergy in the ministry under the leadership of this dynamic leader.
When did you meet Narendra Modi for the first time, what was your first impression and how did your relationship grow?
When I was general secretary of the Arunachal Pradesh BJP; it was in 1999. Modiji was national general secretary. We had met on many occasions. I remember a north-eastern workers’ training programme, which brought us, north-eastern BJP leaders, to Thane near Mumbai. Modiji came and took a class.
What was it about?
It was about the efficiency required for the organisation and how the party leaders should devote their time to expand the party work and its pace. The classes taken by Modiji were very effective and everybody appreciated that he was really hardworking and intelligent.
Did the thought that he’ll become the prime minister one day cross your mind?
I always thought that Modiji will forever be in the party organisation, but when he was made the chief minister of Gujarat in 2002 I thought that was the best decision the party has ever taken.
What makes him different or special? He is also a politician.
Every politician has his own trait. Modiji is unique in many senses. His idea about anything is precise and sharp. His working style is focused. Any decision is fast and quick. He is tireless and we get a lot of inspiration looking at him. Even if I’m tired, I look at him. He’s forever fresh.
Does he understand the intricacies of the north-east's issues?
When he was general secretary, he visited the north-eastern region many times. He understands the north-eastern people. We’re so lucky to have him as our PM and I’m lucky to serve under him.
Why were you selected?
We don’t lobby for ministries in BJP, like people in other parties do. It doesn’t look nice to put yourself forward; it is unbecoming. So we left everything to Modiji.
Please tell us your broader view of what has happened in India, on the change that India has witnessed.
People were looking for leadership in the country. For a long time it was perceptible to everybody that India lacked a leader. Without strong leadership you cannot get a direction for the country. Direction must be driven by strong leadership. That leadership was provided by Modi. When he came into the scene, people felt he is the man we’re looking for.
The Congress lacks leadership. They have a dynastic system where quality doesn’t come into the picture. The vision doesn’t come into the picture; it is the family name that is driving the party. There was a clear cut choice in front of the people, especially the younger generation. We have a fantastic future for the country and a fantastic leader (Modi).
How should normal Indians understand the north-east? Because, some attacks and killings in Delhi in recent times are so shocking.
First of all, we should not see the problems of north-eastern people as a problem of the north-eastern region. Suppose a person of the north-eastern region is being harassed or discriminated against, it is the problem of the country.
India has faced huge problems in the past 200 years under the British rule. It is we, Indians, who complained that we were being racially abused (by the British). If we ourselves are practising the same thing within the country, is it tolerable? No.
Secondly, India is multi-racial, multi-ethnic country. If the identity of India is not put into practice, then the idea of India is demolished.
Thirdly, the challenge before us is that India is a huge country. I cannot tell a person living in a remote corner of Karnataka to know about Mizoram. How will he know about Mizoram? The only way to let them know is through connectivity, education, publicity.
Suppose I’m here as a minister in home ministry, if I’m visible, I’m letting people know who’s the MoS of the home ministry, then people know where Kiren Rijiju comes from; the MoS is from Arunachal Pradesh, that way we come to know each other.
Many people have a fear that the Modi government is going to be a closed one and very dictatorial. What are your views?
Discipline and closed coordination within a system cannot be termed as dictatorial in any manner. We have come to power with a popular mandate, we are discharging our duty and fulfilling the wishes of the people.
We are trying to bring some discipline in our working system, everything is being streamlined; it has to be seen from this perspective. Some people might be saying that Modiji is trying to centralise power, it’s totally wrong.