Spirituality Builds Trust in Peace Processes
■ Samir Jolly: Quitting a corporate career to bring misguided youth back into the mainstream
It was the year 1997. He was a management trainee in Wockhardt when the office building crashed. Several persons lost their lives, but Samir Jolly managed to run out and save his own. The tragedy set him thinking that God might have saved his life for a purpose.
The spoilt-brat son of a Brigadier in the army, he was the youngest child with two elder sisters. He played rebel, ran away from home, and bunked exams. Then, at seventeen, on a trip to Vaishno Devi, he met a friend of his dad who told him his parents were in a lot of pain about their son’s waywardness, and advised him to take up chanting “Om” every morning and evening, telling him his life would take a turn for the better. So Samir did, and it did..
After studying Political Science (Honours) at Delhi University, he took an MBA from Symbiosis University in Pune. His mornings were spent with his professors discussing Plato or Marx, and the afternoons in shallow talk with friends. At night, as he was staying in the then-undeveloped Gurgaon area, he used to eat at the same dhaba (dining-shack) which local dons visited.
Somehow they became “drinking buddies” of sorts!
This strange variety of associations in a single day made him examine the direction his life was again taken. He increasingly began to want to use his time doing something for the underprivileged.
In 2003, Samir took early retirement from a high-flying corporate career and became a full-time Art of Living teacher - a trajectory that eventually took him to the troubled North-Eastern areas of India.
The transition from corporate boardrooms to the dense - and tense- jungles of Assam, from natty “corporate suits to kurta-pajamas”, helped him understand the socio-political process by which youth gravitate towards militancy. He understood that militants too were products of circumstances: a friend might tell these youth a “meeting” is happening and they attend it. From there they are told a “training” is taking place. Next, before they can fully comprehend it, they end up “doing” an incident and end up on the wrong side of the law, with no way back. So they have become militants without ever setting out to be one.
Samir says this understanding has to guide all the stakeholders to the peace initiatives so that they treat the militants as equals. This alone can produce lasting results in negotiations. Militants feel marginalized and exploited and that development has bypassed them. They also have a sense of low-self-worth that has been historically ingrained by colonial governments.
Spirituality, he avers, is the best vehicle to lift people out of this low self-esteem which makes them take to aggression, and help them invest trust and comfort in joining the mainstream of national life, and a spiritual organization like The Art of Living is of immense value in helping overcome this sense of alienation. A spiritual master with no axe to grind can alone bridge the trust deficit. Samir says he has time and again witnessed the genuineness of Gurudev’s interventions and his unconditional love ensuring success in conflict resolution. Enormous patience, belongingness, and communication are required to keep the process going.
Samir recently showed tapes of Gurudev’s FARC negotiations to a group of surrendered militants he was working with. They were stunned to learn that they did not have to give up their political goals; they had only to give up violent means to achieve those political goals. This was a revelation for them. As the link between the Government and the militants in the peace negotiations, Samir says his job is to build trust and nurture it – with both parties to the process. He has learned that handholding ensures results while tying up of loose ends is sacrosanct.
Samir once made a daring, barefoot escape from a militant group that captured him. More recently, he was jailed for eighteen days in the course of his work. His faith and his commitment are keeping him on track despite challenges. His parents have now come to terms with his chosen path. The inspiration he draws from Gurudev keeps him lit. “I am just his sutradhar. I want to continue to be useful to him till my last breath,” he signs off.