Rajiv Gandhi (Bombay - 1985)
This is a moment consecrated by history. One hundred years have passed since the Indian National Congress first met in this great city. Between then and now, India and the world have witnessed profound historical changes - changes that have affected the very structure of human thought and action. In this epoch of radical change, the Indian National Congress brought the world to India and took India to the world. Its non-violent revolution has transformed our nation. Today, it charts the path to Idia's greatness.
We rejoice in this moment. We rejoice in the great achievements, the great deeds of the people of India. We rejoice in the noble expressions of the human intellect and spirit represented by Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi. We rejoice in the pledge redeemed. We rejoice that the honour is ours now to carry the torch of freedom and process.
But our joy is mixed with sorrow. Indiraji should have been here today, speaking to you in her gentle, impassioned voice. One with Bharatmata's immortal spirit, she now shines as a lodestar not only for us but for all humanity. As I recall the great women and men who have led the Indian national Congress - the Parliament of Indian nationalism - I feel proud and humble. I draw strength from the glorious tradition of our party and from the overflowing affection of the people of India. As I stand before you this morning, my mind travels back to those fateful years when the Congress fought for India's freedom. And I think of those gaints who made the Indian National Congress. Seldom has the world seen a nobler galaxy of women and men, so selfless in their devotion to the cause of freedom, so exalted in thought, so brave in action, so pure in spirit. To remember them is to live once again in those times 'When world's great age seemed to begin a new'.
They awakened the spirit of freedom in the Indian people crushed under the oppressive burden of imperalism. Gurudev Tagore and Shri Aurobindo Ghosh were with the leaders of our struggle for independence in reawakening India to its true destiny.
We are blessed with the presence of large number of freedom fighters. We honour them for they made freedom a living reality. Their refusal to submit to the indignity of slavery, the very act of their defiance, and their luminous vision of a united and free India touched the imagination of millions. To the nameless and unsung heroes of our freedom struggle, we offer our humble tribute. Their lifeblood nourished the body of independent India.
To Mahatma Gandhi, the key to India's progress was the development of its villages. In his unified vision, education, agriculture, village industry, social reform, all came together to provide the basis for a vibrant rural society, free from exploitation and linked to the urban centres as equals. Our planning incorporates this basic insight.
Mahatma Gandhi called Jawaharlal NEhru 'the jewel of India'. Panditji added new dimensions to our concept of freedom. To a rewakened India, he brought intimations of mighty historical forces at work on the world stage. As freedom struggle grew in intensity, he went out among the masses unfolding his vision of the future : immemorial India rejuvenated by modern science, technology, and the cleansing moral force of socialism, yet retaining her identity and the age old wealth of their spiritual wisdom.
Panditji was the great unifier of the Indian people. India is the home of many great religions. Her many splendoured mansion of unity rests on the bedrock of secularism. Like a great teacher, he expounded in simple language the philosophy of secularism. He repeatedly warned the nation against communalism. To him, secularism was the beacon light when waves of passion threatened to submerge us.
The smooth succession of Lal Bahadur Shastri proved the inherent strength of our democratic system. He guided the country with steadfast devotion to the basic policies of the Congress. The Congress has always stood for patriotism, simplicity, selfless service and dedication to the cause of the underprivileged, Shastriji epitomised these calues.
With the sudden demise of Shastriji, once more the questions arose with even greater urgency : Would a united India survive ? Would its democracy endure ? Would a food-deficit country be able to preserve its independence ? Would the cry of social justice remain unheeded ? India's voice for freedom, peace and justice remain as firm and resonant as in the past ? Or would neo-colonialism claim yet another victim ? Would India once again become a petitioner in the chancelleries of the West ?
To meet an unprecedented threat to the nation's stability, an emergency was proclaimed in 1975. The process of socio-economic change gathered momentum with the promulgation of the bold and dynamic 20 Point Programme. A democrat to the core of her being, Indiraji called elections in 1977. She accepted the verdict of the people who defeated her and the Congress. She knew it was an angry reaction to some mistakes that had been committed, but that the people were still with her and with the Congress. She stood by the people in their travail as they faced the tragic consequences of the reversal of nationally accepted polices. But many of her colleagues did not have her courage of conviction. Their vision faltered. They parted company with her. Congress again emerged, with youth in the vanguard, as the seord arm of the poor. They voted her back in 1980, expressing their unbounded love for her and trust in her commitment to social justice.
In the international field, Indira Gandhi was the authentic voice of non-alignment, of peace and peacefull coexistence, disarmament and development. She was bold fearless, refusing to be cowed down by pressures howsoever strong.
We are amongst the few to have the rule of law and an independent judiciary. But thousands wait for swcades while an elaborate and arcane machinery grinds ever so slowly. The poor have little hope of timely redress.
We values our free press. It made a magnificent contribution to our freedom struggle. After Independence, the national media have helped consolicate our unity and promote social and economic change. But the question the media need to put to themselves is : Does their contribution to nation building measure up to their role in the freedom struggle ?
A century of achievements ends. A century of endeavour beckons to us. Our resplendent civilization, with unbroken continuty from the third millennium B.C. looks ahead to peacks of excellence in the third millennium A.D.
It falls to us to work for India's greatness. A great country is not which merely has a great past. Out of that past must arise a glorious future.
Let us build an India.
Great achievements demand great sacrifices. Sacrifices not only from our generation and generations gone by, but also from generations to come.
Civilizations are not built by just one or two generations. Civilizations are built by the ceaseless toil of a succession of generations. With softness and sloth, civilizations succumb. Let us beware of decadence.
We must commit ourselves to the demanding task of making India a mighty power in the World, with all the strength and the compassion of her great culture.
To this cause, I pleadge myself.