When President APJ Abdul Kalam asked a question about terrorism on Yahoo

When President APJ Abdul Kalam asked a question about terrorism on Yahoo
When President APJ Abdul Kalam asked a question about terrorism on Yahoo
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When Dr APJ Abdul Kalam asked a question, it got India on its toes and responding.

"What should we do to free our planet from terrorism?" – In 2007, President Kalam asked this simple question on Yahoo!India, which provided a platform for questions and answers to be exchanged between the online community.

The question he asked ended up garnering reactions from across the country like nothing before ever had. It not only evoked reactions from renowned Indian personalities like Sri Sri Ravishankar, Kiran Bedi and Leander Paes, it also got over 31,000 responses which was also reportedly one of the highest responses on Yahoo! Answers.

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam Project/Facebook

This was his question:

Human society, from origin until now, has always been at war within and between groups and has led to two World Wars. Presently, terrorism and low intensity warfare are affecting many parts if the world. As the current global population of 6 billion increases to 8 billion by 2025, national and international conflicts will continue to be a source of concern for humanity. When evil minds combine, good minds have to work together and combat. In this context, what are the out-of-the-box solutions to free the planet earth from terrorism? Your answers when processed and implemented can lead to a peaceful, happy and safe planet earth. 

Over 31,000 responses were recorded here of which we picked a few to republish. 

Kiran Bedi- I’m Kiran Bedi belonging to the Indian Police Service. It is a privilege to be on Yahoo. I am here to offer my answer to the question raised by the President of India on Terrorism. Having been a police officer of 33 years, I’ve arrested and interrogated many terrorists. I have also run a prison, where I had an opportunity to interact with them. I saw one common string. Before the terrorists fire weapons, terrorism is already in their minds. If we have to work for prevention we will need to address the minds first. Because violence first grows in the minds, just as peace does. But once the mind is fed on terrorism and gets hell-bent on causing destruction to achieve political or ideological goals, then weapons, media and money is all oxygen.

Kiran Bedi/Facebook

The answer to this is straight. Address the minds. Not when it is already formed, not when it is already closed, but when it is in the making. That’s where a teacher, a parent, a neighbor or a spiritual master, plays a role.

As I believe lets go to ‘right campaigns and not wrong wars’. I think what’s happening today is, getting into wrong wars with wrong campaigns. We need to reverse this. Let me give you an example; all Singaporean Taxi Drivers are linked with crime prevention. To me this is a right campaign. 

Let me relate you a story of a man who complained to God of having sent them into such a violent, abusive and greedy world, full of counterfeit policies, plans, budgets, currencies and counterfeit human beings. God said: don’t you understand, I sent you on to this earth to be a ‘better you’. But you became a part of the problem and not the solution.  A message which has stayed with me for long which I recall is, “EACH ONE OF YOU CAN MAKE A GREAT DEAL OF DIFFERENCE TO THE NATION—REPEAT THIS PLEDGE AFTER ME… That was a pledge to fight terrorism!  I cannot say terrorism will be eliminated. All I can say is, terrorism will be contained and the world will be more peaceful for generations to come. And it will be a peaceful world, only when it truly speaks the language of Gandhi.

Sri Sri Ravishankar- To free our planet from terrorism we have to really go into the root cause of terrorism  The first cause of terrorism I see is the tension and stress. Stress and tension in the minds of men and women turn into violence and that violence then comes up in life as domestic violence, societal violence, then it becomes the violence between communities and countries. So basically stress and tension in a person is to be managed. The second cause of terrorism I see, is narrow ideology, narrow mindedness. Lack of sense of belongingness with the human race. Lack of sense of belongingness with the people of all different religions and cultures and racial backgrounds. So we need to expand the vision of our young people.

The young minds need to have a sense of belongingness with people of all different cultures and religions. One way to achieve this is to educate a child in a multi cultural, multi religious discipline so that the child knows little bit about the wisdom in all various different cultures. This is what I would call as globalizing wisdom.

Glosbalising widom would help and more and more interaction with people who are different than ourselves. Usually you know, there is a proverb that says Birds of the same feather flock together. So we don’t need to be birds, we can be human beings; we can flock with people of different feathers, different colours and different beliefs and faith systems. If you could achieve that then the world would be a better place to live. A person identifies himself to belong to a particular religion. If his identity with the religion is above his identity of being a human being then, there is a problem. First and foremost everyone’s identity should connect oneself with the fact that they are part of one divinity and one humanity. And the third fourth fifth place of course, the other identities will stay on. They belong to this religion, this culture this language, this country, this nationality, they all should be there.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar/Facebook

You can’t deny someone’s identity at all. Identities are good to have. They have their purpose but they should not super cede or overshadow the basic identity that we all have, that we are human beings.  If this basic identity that we are human beings is over shadowded then people are ready to give up their lives for identities sake. For being a Muslim or a Hindu or a Christian or a Jewish. People are giving the life for their identity! So that shift has to happen. For that we need to globalize wisdom and a sense of belongingness with all the wisdom. All the religions of the world has to dawn in their minds.

Leander Paes- The most extreme terrorism that faces us today is sadly in the form of people killing each other in the name of Religion. There is a misguided belief that you can become a Martyr even if you kill innocent people. This dangerous ideology requires a change in perception. Education and spreading awareness among people is the key to bringing about such a necessary & pressing change in the mentality of people. Religious Fanaticism is responsible for this in a big way. We must learn to be tolerant towards people of all religions, color, caste and creed. We must learn to live in peace and stop judging people by the house the live in, the cars they drive or their economic conditions. We have to stop being such a judgmental society.

Leander Paes/Facebook

Spreading the message of peace and love through education is equally important to combat terrorism. Each one of us needs to contribute to the process individually as each of us is like a drop in the ocean which can create a huge ripple. We should all join in this, to combat terrorism in our own little way and make a big difference.

Kalam himself however reportedly screened answers, and picked two which were declared best of all the answers.

Sugato Mitra’s answer was picked as number one. Karthik Durairajan came second.

Sugato Mitra's "Best Answer"- First, let me wish Your Excellency a very happy and prosperous new year. I am Sugato Mitra, a 41 year old man from Durgapur in West Bengal. As a very ordinary citizen of this great nation, I consider it an immense privillege of mine to be presented with an opportunity to answer a question which happens to cross the mind of someone who is not only the Honourable President of India but also happens to be one of the greatest intellectual minds of this country.

A look at the very elementary picture of terrorism reveals certain things:

1. A handful of immensely wealthy, influential and powerful people provide the leadership. In many instances they lead a justifiable movement. In an equal number of instances they have a personal axe to grind in the garb of mass movement. Some of them are prepared to come out and discuss their grievances. Others prefer to remain away from the public eye.

2. The foot soldiers are almost invariably youth of impressionable minds. It is also commonly seen that they come from ordinary or poor families. The governments of different countries faced with the problem of terrorism has to do some serious and honest soul searching. The discussion below, tries to combine the aforesaid two aspects in an effort to find a solution to terrorism. The question of origin of the terrorist movement has to be addressed first. Why did a terrorist movement arise? Was it because a certain section of the population justifiably demanded something, but was denied the same? In that case, how does the fulfillment of their demands fit into the overall national interest? If conceding to their justified demand does not affect national interests adversely, there is no harm in agreeing to them.

But if those are contrary to the overall national interests then there is no question of conceding. But the issue should be considered objectively and impartially. This seems to be particularly pertinent in the Kashmir problem. Here we see not only Kashmiris demanding their own independent homeland, but also a neighbouring country abetting the terrorist movement against India. Here Pakistan clearly has an axe to grind and in all probabilities ultimately want to annexe Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan and all Pakistan sponsored Kashmiri leaders should be firmly ignored in solving the problem.


The Government of India should address the people of Kashmir directly, especially the Kashmiri youth. The message should ring loud and clear: we want our Kashmiri brothers and sisters to be with us now and forever. India doesn't want to bribe Kashmiris with special concessions to be a part of this country. India wants every Kashmiri to be equal partners in the country's progress to prosperity. Every effort should be made to initiate progress in J&K through setting up of institutes of excellence and modern industries. The mind of the Kasmiri youth should be weaned away from the narrow confines of terrorism and divisiveness and exposed to modern liberal thinking through these institutes. When he or she is adequately trained, there should be adequate modern industries where he or she can put his hand on modern machines and applications. Hopefully, the Kashmiri youth will thereafter forsake the gun and terrorism and separatism as his or her aspirations in life, which are no different from any other normal youth, marches towards the path of fulfilment. Terrorism and its associated perils will be an unviable option compared to the peace and tranquility of a normal human life.

The same approach needs to be implemented in North East India as well. Development should be the dominant ingredient in the government's efforts to tame terrorism. Development for the masses, especially the youth and harsh repressive measures for the handful of masterminds can adequately tame terrorism. Your Excellency, as you have rightly pointed out, the human population is growing and scarce natural resources are under pressure. If a system of equitable distribution could be worked out, it would leave greater number of people satisfied. But sadly this doesn't happen practically with the result that a lot of us feel deprived and aggrieved. This is particularly relevant to India and its exploding population. If the pressure of population on resources decreased, attrition would lessen consequently and quality of life of the average Indian improve considerably. That would also mean a drastic reduction in terrorist activities and chances thereof. Population control in India should not only be a slogan but a visible and effective national movement.

Adding to our woes, powerful nations want to corner a major share of the scarce natural resources. Terrorism originating from the Middle East has its roots in Western countries trying to control and corner the oil reserves located there. Kuwait was attacked by Iraq for its oil. The US started the Gulf War against Iraq to free Kuwait. And now Iraq is the latest hotbed of terrorism. Of course there is the Palestinian problem as a direct consequence of Israel's occupation. Israel can not be wished away, but it is Israel's responsibility to be the initiator of peace in the region with meaningful and acceptable efforts.

The UN of late has unfortunately come out as a pretty ineffective forum to implement peace. It has to be made effective. India is aspiring for a permanent seat in the Security Council. If she succeeds, India should hopefully provide solutions to end attritions accross the world and end terrorism. But right now responsible nations must unite against terrorism. The group should not only be composed of nations facing this threat, but also those still out of its tentacles.

Terrorism should be tackled globally and not individually. When the World Trade Center came crashing down, the whole world condemned. But sadly, such reactions of universal solidarity are seen when terrorism kills innocents in India.

Sanity and responsibility are still dominant in the world. The need of the hour is unity of sane and right thinking people cutting across national barrier and ideologies. When they unite, greedy and aggressive regimes will be forced to take a backseat. Let there be greater exchanges between the youth of all countries who want peace in their own country and also internationally. Let ideas flow freely.

Voices should be raised when a powerful nation tries to bully a weak nation into submission and thereby open another front for terrorism. Such nations, however powerful, should be shunned by one and all. And let the condemnation be equally loud and clear when terrorism strikes and kills innocents.

A check on the population growth, quality education and living standards, development and employment opportunities for the youth and respect for humanity and universal human values will ultimately wipe out terrorism one day.

This may appear Utopian right now. But I am optimistic of seeing this day arrive soon. And with this fervent hope, Your Excellency, I end my humble submssion.  

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