Invoking Mahatma Gandhi, President Pranab Mukherjee has called to make the Swachh Bharat Mission a success by removing the “real dirt in our minds” and to “let go views that divide the society”.
The President was speaking at the inauguration of the Archives and Research Centre at Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad on Tuesday, the second day of his three-day maiden tour to Gujarat since taking office in 2012.
“The real dirt of India lies not in our streets but in our minds and in our unwillingness to let go of views that divide society into ‘them’ and ‘us’, ‘pure’ and ‘impure’. We must make a success of the laudable and welcome Swachh Bharat Mission. However, this also must be seen as just the beginning of a much larger and intense effort to cleanse minds and fulfil Gandhiji’s vision in all its aspects,” Mukherjee said.
Given the current raging debate over intolerance in India, Mukherjee cited Gandhiji’s vision of India as “an inclusive nation where every section of our population live in equality and enjoy equal opportunity” and “the essence of being human is our trust of each other”.
“He saw India as a country which would celebrate and constantly strengthen its vibrant diversity and commitment to pluralism. Gandhiji wanted our people to move forward unitedly in ever widening thought and action,” Mukherjee added even as parliamentarians in the ongoing winter session continued to vehemently debate on India’s measure of intolerance.
“Every day, we see unprecedented violence all around us. At the heart of this violence is darkness, fear and mistrust. While we invent new modes of combating this ever-spiraling violence, we must not forget the power of non-violence, dialogue and reason,” he said.
Later at the 62nd convocation at Gujarat Vidhyapith, an academic institute founded by Gandhi, Mukherjee said, “We have promised ourselves a Swachh Bharat by October 2, 2019 to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji. It is noteworthy that students of this institute through their own labour have kept the campus clean. Swachh Bharat, according to Bapu, implied a clean mind, clean body and clean environment.”
Pointing out that Ahimsa (or non-violence) is not a negative force and that only “a non-violent society can ensure the participation of all sections of the people, especially the marginalised and the dispossessed in our democratic process,” Mukherjee said that the real essence of Gandhiji’s legacy and its continuing resonance lies in his injunction that all our actions must keep in mind the last person. “The last person in India is often a woman, a Dalit or an Adivasi. We must constantly ask ourselves, do our actions have meaning for them?”
Mukherjee had earlier visited the Indian Institute of Management and presented the APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE Award on Monday. The President also inaugurated Amul’s state-of-the-art feed manufacturing plant in Kapadwanj in Gujarat’s Kheda district.
Mukherjee will be visiting the Union Territory Diu later on Tuesday and will visit the Dwarikadhish Temple in Dev Bhoomi Dwarka district before leaving for Delhi on Wednesday.