My dear citizens of India,
On the eve of the 55th anniversary of our Independence, I have great pleasure
in offering you my best wishes for your well-being and happiness. My salutations
to all of you both in India and abroad.
May I extend a special word of gratitude to the men of our defence who guard
our frontiers on the land, on the sea and in the air and paramilitary forces.
May I also convey my special appreciation to our farmers who toil on the fields,
technicians who keep the wheels of our industry moving, teachers who create
knowledge products to the society and doctors, engineers, scientists,
technologists and other professionals and administrators who are the prime
movers of national development. May I wish the youth of India whose purposeful
hard work with sweat will be a major transforming force for prosperous India.
I met some of the freedom fighters a few days ago at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
Each and every one of them was the live force for our freedom movement. On this
day, I salute all men and women of India who fought for our freedom and
sacrificed their lives to achieve our Independence. Seeding a great vision and
an indomitable spirit to achieve India's freedom took place around 1857. For 90
years, there were a number of intensive struggles for freedom. Many of our
people and leaders were in jail and their sufferings got transformed into
freedom movement, with national ethos under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi. I
have tried to capture the essence of the freedom movement. Two aspects have come
out: as a result of supreme sacrifices and dedicated and focused efforts, we got
our Independence. The second aspect is that the vision driven movement itself
created many leaders in different spheres of politics, economics, industry,
science, arts and culture.
After Independence, India has made significant achievements in agriculture
and food production, energy, healthcare, education and various fields of science
and technology. Particularly we have made our mark in the international arena in
the fields of pharmaceuticals, information technology, mass media and
communication, space, defence and nuclear science.
Similar to the first vision, which created a movement to achieve freedom with
unity of minds of our people and the unity of purpose in actions, we need a
second vision, which will integrate people from all walks of our society towards
a common purpose. The second vision of our nation is to transform it from the
present developing status to a developed nation by integrated actions
simultaneously in the areas of agriculture and food processing, education and
healthcare, infrastructure development including power, information and
communication technologies, and critical technologies. This greater vision will
aim to alleviate poverty, illiteracy and unemployment. When the minds of the
people of our country are unified and fused towards this vision, the dormant
potential will manifest as a mammoth power leading to a happy and prosperous
life of a billion people. This vision of the nation will also remove the
conflicts arising out of differences and small thinking.
Dear citizens, I would like to reiterate that Jammu and Kashmir is an
integral part of India. It is not an international issue. India is ready for
bilateral dialogue once the cross border terrorism is brought to a complete end.
Normal election process is on in Jammu and Kashmir. It is essential to ensure
its successful completion and dawn of peace in Jammu and Kashmir.
We also have many challenges in front of us. We have to find a solution to
the repeated droughts and floods; we have to eradicate communal and other
divisive clashes sprouting in certain parts and remove the pains of our people
whether it is in Jammu and Kashmir or in any other part of our country; we also
have to find a permanent solution to combat terrorism.
Let us now look at a long-term problem. It is paradoxical to see floods in
one part of our country while some other parts face drought. This drought -
flood phenomenon is a recurring feature. The need of the hour is to have a water
mission which will enable availability of water to the fields, villages, towns
and industries throughout the year, even while maintaining environmental purity.
One major part of the water mission would be networking of our rivers.
Technological and project management capabilities of our country can rise to the
occasion and make this river networking a reality with long term planning and
proper investment. In addition, the vast sea around us can help by providing
potable water through desalination as a cost effective technology. There are of
course short term techniques such as water harvesting by revitalizing rural
ponds, water recycling to water conservation. Such programmes should have a
large scale people participation even at the conceptual and project planning
stages. The entire programme should revolve around economic viability leading to
continued prosperity for our people with larger employment potential,
environmental sustainability, grass root level motivation and benefit sharing.
I would now like to share with you friends, another crucial requirement and
necessity for our country. We cannot sustain a second vision for the country
without Unity of Minds of all our people. Our great strength is our pluralistic
tradition and civilisational heritage of nearly 3000 years. I have always been
asking myself what the strength of our heritage is. A unique fusion has taken
place with multiple cultures, religions and the way of life of many parts of the
world and that has become the foundation of the Indian life. One can trace from
1857 to date, the type of good experiences we have had and also the strife
resulting out of the differences in thoughts.
I have just now returned from Gujarat after interactions with various cross
sections of people, leaders, officials and rehabilitation workers in the areas
affected by recent disturbances and earthquake. I also visited the Sabarmati
Ashram which was established by Mahatma Gandhi for the purpose of our countrymen
to carry on the search for truth and develop fearlessness. I sat in silence for
a while in the Ashram and remembered the life of Gandhiji. One dominant thought
came to my mind. If we can go above our own personal hardships and see the
problems of others and decide to work for a larger cause, then there is natural
elevation of our minds. When we are lax in this, then our level of thinking goes
down. I felt confident that all of us can be elevated to the level of noble
minds, if we just decide to understand others and to practice tolerance. I
realized that Gujarat has given the noble leader - Mahatma Gandhi, unifier of
the nation - Vallabhbhai Patel and the great visionary in science and technology
- Vikram Sarabhai and many more. Time has come for every one of us to put the
thoughts of these great souls into action for nation's welfare.
Non-violence, tolerance, acceptance of all religions and different ways of
life, search for truth and fearlessness are the values the Mahatma taught us and
they are the cornerstones of our civilisational heritage and, therefore, of
Indian polity. Any act by anyone anywhere in India that runs counter to these
eternal values would pose a threat to the fabric of free Indian nation which was
born and nurtured by the supreme sacrifices of countless noble souls. We should
all work together to achieve the mission for Unity of Minds to preserve what we
so preciously earned and reach greater heights in the future.
When I interact with school children and youth, wherever I go, one question
comes often. They ask me "who are our role models?" Parents and
teachers have to show them by example to live as enlightened citizens. Children
also look for role models at national level in different fields. I have
described earlier the role models from Gujarat. Each state of our country has
many such examples of the past. It is now time we create more role models from
the present. I suggest that members of our Parliament and Legislatures can shape
the future of our children by becoming good role models. Parliament and
Legislatures have a crucial role in giving the vision of developed India and
value based polity. Our children should see the members of the Parliament
debating the vision of developed India, providing action plans and putting forth
great thoughts and challenges to them. Looking at the national leaders, the
children will find their role models for their development and growth.
I am sure, our leadership and our people can achieve the second vision of
developed India. Let us take a vow on this Independence Day that the nation is
more important compared to any individual, party or organisation.
I pray to the Almighty for Unity of Minds and our success in every aspect of
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
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