On the eve of our 64th Independence Day, I extend my warmest greetings to all of you from all walks of life, living in India and overseas. I convey special greetings to the brave personnel of our Armed Forces and the Para-military forces who guard our frontiers and to our Central and State police, as well as our internal security forces. I also compliment every citizen of this country whose hard work, productive prowess and enterprising zeal have put India among the front ranks of the nations of the world. I convey my heartfelt condolences to all those who have lost their loved ones, suffered injuries and whose properties have been destroyed in the recent cloud burst in Leh.
Every year, we celebrate our Independence Day with great fervour as well as joy and justifiably so, as it commemorates that day, when after many years of subjugation, our country gained its freedom. Indeed, in the annals of history, 15th of August 1947 will always be remembered as a day of an extraordinary accomplishment, of when India won its freedom with unparalleled fortitude and unique means. Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, our movement for attaining freedom through Ahimsa and Satyagraha spread throughout the country, inspiring people in a manner rarely seen. Millions and millions of our men and women, willingly and enthusiastically responded to his call. They united to become an immense force that defeated the mightiest colonial power. Free India, was thus born.
As citizens of free India, we must reflect on the values and principles which were in the minds and hearts of those who fought and sacrificed for our freedom. They drew inspiration from the values nurtured in the country through millennia. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru once described Gandhiji as, “embodying the old spirit of India, who held aloft the torch of freedom”. Gandhiji’s thoughts and his life were truly an expression of the philosophy of our ancient civilization in which peace and harmony, non-violence and truth, human dignity and compassion were given great prominence. Are we now forgetting these principles? Are we overlooking them? No, we should not. These are eternal values, which have sustained our nation, our society and also each one of us as individuals. Gandhiji’s thinking continues to have deep influence and is of increasing relevance in the world, with 2nd October, his birthday, being observed every year as the International Day of Non-Violence.
We are at a historic phase when the world is shifting course. It is impacting our economy, polity, trade, commerce, education and pace of life. In this era of transformation, India definitely cannot lag behind. Our entire effort must be to ensure that there is overall development in which all people prosper. However, can our political approaches, economic progress and scientific advances be combined with values of human welfare, tolerance, mutual respect and selflessness propounded by learned men, leaders, philosophers and thinkers of our country? Our past and our future are linked. The future beckons us and the past guides us.
What has been our past? India, a mature and a harmonious society, had a rich tradition of learning and a philosophy based on experiences and knowledge of thousands of years. Swami Vivekananda spoke of India as, “the ancient land, where wisdom made its home before it went into any other country”. Ours is a land where religions have taken birth and all religions of the world have found a place. Ours is a land where different languages, cultures and customs flourished. So well known was India for its piety, scholarship and centres of study, that it attracted travellers from across the world. From early times, India always looked at progress and moral growth as mutually inclusive rather than mutually exclusive concepts. India’s depth of thought was matched by its material prosperity. Its fine goods, its spices, its silk, its cotton, were...