We pledge ourselves to fight for the preservation of the legacy of Gandhiji and Nehruji. Let us pledge that we will not let any force diminish its glory: Sonia Gandhi
Before starting my speech I would like to mention a few words about the incidence in France. In the terrorist attack that happened in Paris yesterday night, we all express our deep condolences. Our concern is with the people of France. This is an attack on humanity and how much we condemn it, will be less. We have to keep our fight continuing against any kind of terrorism. Around one hundred and twenty five years ago a man was born who shined with the light of a Sun. This man was none other than the legendary Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.
Though this Sun set on May 27th, 1964, his light still shines brightly in the eyes, hearts and minds of every citizen. And when some individual attempts to infect our nation and its people with sense of intolerance, prejudice, injustice, communalism, hatred and bigotry his light continues to shine forth and show us the right way, the way out of darkness. His life expressed best through his patriotism, his selfless service, his thoughts, words and actions guides us towards the path of greatness. Panditji came of age in an India bound by the chains of the British Raj.
It is a fact that had he so desired he could have had a comfortable life of power and privilege. Instead he chose to reject such a life in an expression of the highest form of patriotism and love for his country, by dedicating himself fully to the cause of India’s independence. Not for him was the easy path. He drove straight into the lathis and batons of the British Raj. Straight into the jails and the cellars of captivity. And how many years did Nehru ji spend jailed inside British prisons for the crime of fighting for our Nation’s independence. Such were the sacrifices that Nehruji and his colleagues made for our national pride and self-respect. This greatness is in stark contrast to those so-called nationalists who nowadays go around giving certificates on patriotism to decide who is patriotic and who isn’t. When leaders like Nehruji were fighting for our freedom, the ideological masters of today’s ruling establishment were hiding safely in their homes while some were even singing praises of their British masters. Not one protest march or procession did they take out, not one resolution did they pass against the British oppressors, not once did they raise their voices in protest. In fact, in 1942 when Gandhi ji announced the Quit India movement there were two groups which actively and openly opposed the call.
One was responsible for partition and the other is today the remote controller of the ruling establishment. It is a historic fact that both these groups instructed their followers to condemn Gandhijis call. No matter how much the Government today may wish to erase this past, it is a historical fact. When their ideological descendants today make hollow claims of patriotism and national pride, when they denounce citizens as traitors, then we are compelled to recall what Nehruji taught us through his words and actions- that the love of the nation is best expressed through love and compassion for its citizens. Love which knows no boundaries of caste, creed, religion or language. I have no hesitation in saying that if anyone today opposes secular values or threatens the secular fabric of our nation then it is an opposition to the ideals of not Nehruji but in reality of Gandhiji as well and of the many great leaders who fought alongside them for our country’s independence. When we think of Nehruji’s contribution to the creation of our Constitution, we are reminded of what Nehruji perceived as an ideal democracy. He fought for and upheld these ideals every single day through his efforts and role as Independent India’s first Prime Minister.
And he sowed the seeds of these ideas and democratic values so deeply into our fledgling nation’s soil that today it has blossomed into a beautiful tree, whose roots are so deep and strong that no tyrannical force can shake or uproot it. Democracy is a word that is frequently used by people in all walks of life. But what does it truly mean to be part of a democracy? Democracy, above all, means respecting that people can have different opinions. That people are free to think, behave and worship as they see fit. If one looks at the legacy of Nehruji’s work, then one begins to understand how democracy has come to be such an essential part of every Indian’s life, of what they expect from their leaders and how they live. In Nehruji’s legacy we see the deep respect he had even for his critics and the regard he had for views different than his own. For him democracy rested on a foundation of debate, of a frank exchange of ideas.
In a day and age where people are viciously attacked for holding different beliefs, it is important to remember this. Simply because someone holds a different view or disagrees then they cannot be branded a traitor. This is neither the way of our democracy nor a form of patriotism. It is a form of tyranny. Seeing the prevalent atmosphere of intolerance we are reminded, all the more of Nehruji’s days. When any citizen could speak his mind, his ‘mann ki baat’ a phrase which has nowadays been reduced to being the name of a radio broadcast. Today, we are witnessing attempts by certain individuals and elements to whitewash their communal agenda in front of the world by hiding it behind the mask of development. Development is used as a buzzword, again and again. It is ironic that they speak of development yet fail to learn from the legacy and lessons of the man synonymous with laying the foundation of India’s growth-Nehruji. Nehruji championed the creation of dams and rivers for the benefit of farmers calling them the “temples of modern India”. He ordered the establishment of factories and mills to industrialise India. He enthusiastically encouraged the cultivation of scientists and scientific thought through the establishment of research organisations. He promoted education through the creation of universities and colleges. All of this happened during Nehruji’s time.
It happened for the benefit of millions of Indian citizens, for the common man. For Nehruji, developing the nation meant developing and empowering its citizens. Today some people have changed the definition of ‘development’. For them development means the right to forcibly acquire land belonging to poor farmers. It requires the reduction of benefits given to poor wage labourers. For them, this development is limited to the enrichment of a select few industrialists and businessmen. It is therefore not surprising, when faced with such a sorry state of affairs, that we recall with fondness the definition of development pioneered and practised by Nehruji. Nehruji oversaw the establishment of several organisations, art and cultural centres, academies, history and scientific societies.
He did this with the objective of fostering a love for art and human values, to help carry out research and propagate a scientific temper, to preserve our culture and diverse ethos. But today these institutions are reduced to a joke. Several eminent writers and scholars who were felicitated by the Government are now returning their awards as a form of protest. It would interest you to learn that the very first president of the ‘Sahitya Academy’ was none other than Nehruji who in his opening address at the Academy said that “his first duty as President of the academy was to protect the academy from the interference of the Prime Minister”! But who will protect the academies and institutions of today?
How can a Government protect these meaningful institutions when it cannot even protect the common man from the twin perils of inflation and violence? Members of the Ruling Party are quick to remind the common man what to eat and what not to eat but have little advice to offer those people who are forced to buy dal at rupees two hundred a kilo. Inspired by the example of Mahatma Gandhiji, Nehruji dedicated his life to building a nation where harmony, unity and peace prevailed; A nation free from superstition and shining with the light of education and science and technology. Today there are some forces who are committed to the idea of destroying this legacy. Let us today, on Nehruji’s birth anniversary, pledge ourselves to fight for the preservation of the legacy of Gandhiji and Nehruji.
Let us pledge that we will not let any force diminish its glory. There may be some clouds on the horizon today, but if we stay true to the principles, values, causes and thoughts of Nehruji, the clouds will undoubtedly pass and once again the bright rays of that Sun will shine and illuminate the way for all of us. It is only a matter of time and perseverance.