Paying homage to the martyrs of the country's first War of Independence, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said that events of 1857 stood as a great testimony to the traditions of Hindu-Muslim unity that held out as an example for subsequent generations.
"What is significant is that despite rallying under the flag of 'deen' and 'dharma', the rebellion was united. There was no division between Hindus and Muslims in their resistance to alien domination," Manmohan Singh told a packed Central Hall in Parliament House.
"In every 'ishtahar' (advertisement) that the rebel leadership issued, Hindus and Muslims were called upon to rise together to fight against British rule and to remove it."
The prime minister also pointed out that the 1857 mutiny by Indian soldiers against their British masters must not be misinterpreted in the narrow sense of the word religion.
"What the rebels fought to defend was a way of life which they feared the British were destroying," he said.
Recalling Maulana Abul Kalam Azad's writings on the uprising, he said the feeling of brotherhood among Hindus and Muslims was found not only in the army but also among the civil population.
"There is no record of a single incident of conflict or clash on a religious basis even though there are instances where British officers tried to weaken the Indian camp by stressing such differences. India faced the trial of 1857 as a united community."
Urging people to ensure that the sacrifices of the rebel leadership was not in vain, he called upon the gathering to build a nation free from want and rid it of the scourge of poverty, ignorance and disease.
"It is our responsibility to build a new prosperous India that is inclusive as well as caring. It is our responsibility to build an India marked by harmony between communities, social justice and the equality of all, irrespective of religion, region, language or caste.
"It is by doing so (that) we will be able to pay true homage to those who sacrificed their lives in the cause of our freedom," he said.