Today, we celebrate our 65th Republic Day. 64 years ago, on this very day; we formally became a Republic and adopted our Constitution. Today is a day of national strength and self confidence.
Republic Day fills each and every one of us with strong emotions. It brings to mind powerful images of India’s military, parading to the world its full might and grandeur. It makes us salute once again the selfless patriotism of our women and men in uniform. It inspires us with the moving accounts of the bravery and gallantry award winners.
Today is also a day to look back and cherish our glorious past! Remember the sacrifices of the great women and men of the freedom struggle. Remember the members of the Constituent Assembly, who gave us in our Constitution a rooting force we can be very proud of. Today we renew our faith and commitment in this sacred text that has made India what it is. We pay our tributes to the venerable Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, whose anchoring role can never be forgotten.
Importantly, today is also a day for introspection. What does the Republic of India stand for? What does it mean to us? What direction has it been headed in over the last seven decades? And what does it need to do in the coming years?
One phrase that has been gaining significant traction of-late is the ‘Idea of India’. Public and academic discourse around this has been hijacked by a select few, becoming a powerful tool in furthering their hegemony over the same. Many have asked me in lengthy op-eds, on social media and so on that “Modi ji everything else is alright but what is your Idea of India”? Others have not been so kind, preferring to debate my party’s very suitability with this ‘Idea of India’ itself.
However, one must understand that no single person or entity can appropriate the ‘Idea of India’. BJP’s National Council Meet last week gave me the opportunity to share some glimpses into what my ‘Idea of India’ was as well.
First and foremost, my understanding of the ‘Idea of India’ fundamentally rejects such a hegemonic conceptualization of an ‘Idea of India’. The Rig Veda teaches us: ‘आ नो भद्राः क्रतवो यन्तु विश्वतः’. That is ‘let noble thoughts flow from all sides’! This is not just a mantra, but a central tenet of our Constitution as well. Ours is a path of tolerance. Of the celebration of diversity. Where every Indian not just envisions, but works towards building the India of his or her dreams. My ‘Idea of India’ calls not just for tolerance, but a celebration of all points of view. Where the sensibilities of every individual are respected.
Truth, Peace and Non-violence form the central tenets of the ‘Idea of India’! Our scriptures teach ‘सत्यमेव जयते’, that Truth alone triumphs. I am committed to such an India where the wheels of justice move quickly and equally for every Indian irrespective of his class, caste or creed. An India where injustice has no legal nor moral validity.
Non-violence is another such principle that has blessed our nation from time immemorial. We are the land of Gautama Buddha, Mahavira and Mahatma Gandhi. ‘अहिंसा परमो धर्मः’ - that non-violence is the highest dharma - is ingrained in our scriptures. Violence, in any manner or form, thus has no space whatsoever in the ‘Idea of India’.
The ‘Idea of India’ in fact does not let this ethos of brotherhood and friendship be limited by India’s boundaries as well, espousing the principle of ‘वसुधैव कुटुम्बकम्’ – or the whole world being one single family. The 21st century once again beckons India to its role of being the guiding light to the world. The ‘Idea of India’ demands the actualization of Swami Vivekananda’s dream of ‘जगद गुरु भारत’. Of a confident and sure India, engaging with the global community on its own terms and principles.
The ‘Idea of India’ is an India of opportunity and aspiration. An India where: ‘सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः, सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः’ - all are prosperous and happy, all are free from illness. Unfortunately however, poverty and despondency has been perpetuated for decades to enrich the ballot boxes of a selected few. The dreams and aspirations of our peoples have been brow-beaten into submissive helplessness. The incredulous story of India being a poor nation has been woven to suit this purpose.
But this bluff must be called! India is not a poor nation. It has been made poor. India is blessed with incredible natural resources as well as unimaginable human resources. Why else was every colonial power drawn to India centuries ago, then for her unimaginable wealth! All that is needed to release this trapped vibrancy is a change in approach. We need to harness dreams, rather than dependency. We Indians have a very strong sense of honour and dignity. We are a self made people. All we ask for is fair and equal opportunity. The ‘Idea of India’ thus requires every single Indian to be empowered with the opportunity to break free from the chains of poverty and build his own success story of progress and prosperity.
Now is the time to give our people wings to fly. Empower them with the ability to dream; as well as the capability to actualize the same. Our youth are brimming with energy, ready to shape not just India but the World at large. It is our responsibility to enable the same by providing them with the necessary skills and opportunities. We must harness their talent through a focus on quality education, entrepreneurship, innovation, research and technology.
Whenever knowledge has been in primacy, India has shown the way to the World. As the 21st century evolves into an era of knowledge and information, the World once again beckons India. It is not the might of missiles but the sharpness of the human mind that will determine the coming century. Education thus is at the core of my ‘Idea of India’, charting the way from the darkness of ignorance to the light of knowledge – ‘तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय’. I envision an India where the lamp of knowledge shines in every household. I envision an India where each child has access to a holistic education that builds character and personality.
A society’s development is incomplete without the empowerment of women. This dream of women empowerment cannot be achieved until we as a society are able to guarantee their safety and dignity. Few things are as shameful as committing a crime against women. If we see our beloved nation as our Mother India – ‘माँ भारती’, if the divine Goddess has been worshipped by our ancestors for centuries; why do we tolerate crime against women? Let us raise our voices and unite against these forces who cannot respect our ‘मातृ शक्ति’. Women have been considered as homemakers. Now however, we must see them as nation builders, fundamentally defining our future.
The development of India will not be possible with a weak Federation. The makers of our Constitution envisioned a strong federal structure where the States and the Centre are equal partners in the development journey. No one is big and no one is small.
We need to change the mindset where states have to survive at the mercy of Delhi. The money in our nation's’ coffers belongs to the people of India!
We dream of an India where development is the result of all Chief Ministers, the Prime Minister, state Ministers, Union Ministers working together with even Local Body Authorities as one team, a strong and united ‘Team India.’
Friends, we are a truly blessed people. Blessed with unimaginable wealth, both natural and human. Blessed with an illustrious heritage built by our ancestors over millennia. Ours is the sole culture that has stood the test of time. Civilisations came and civilisations went. Societies appeared and societies disappeared. But we stand tall, having overcome every challenge only to emerge stronger after each.
Yes, there have been setbacks. Yes, we are confronted by some very serious challenges. Yes, there is a lot that remains to be done. However the ‘Idea of India’ stands unblemished. I have always believed in the intrinsic strength and potential of India. I urge you to do the same.
Let us have faith in our nation and our people. Let us walk the path shown by our great leaders, as a fitting tribute to their selfless sacrifice. Let us devote ourselves to the cause of nation building with the mantra of ‘India First’! Let us together build a nation that once again redefines the story of mankind!
Forever yours in this journey of development,