President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday said 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. Gandhiji would tell us – and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar would agree with him – that so long as untouchability persists, so long as dehumanising practice of carrying night soil persists, we cannot have real Swacch Bharat,” said President Mukherjee.
“Gandhiji insisted on the dignity of all human labour and expressed his desire to be a scavenger. We must remember that Gandhiji wished to be a scavenger of our hearts as much as of our villages,” he added.
President Mukherjee said only those who are confident of their conviction, secure in their faith and rooted in their culture can hope to live in an open house, an open society.
“If we close ourselves in, seek to be immune from other influences, it shows that we are prepared to live in a house that is devoid of fresh breeze. Hriday Kunj’s lesson to us in contemporary India is that we must build an open society ever ready to engage with diverse ideas and thoughts on equal terms,” he added.
President Mukherjee said Mahatma Gandhi was an advocate of knowledge without barriers.
“Gandhiji’s life should be understood as a whole, not piecemeal, and certainly not fragmented. The capacity for compassion and empathy is the true foundation of our civilization,” said President Mukherjee.
“Gandhiji used a very special word for civilisation, SUDHAR, which he said is not just the good path or the right path but also that which holds human civilisation together. Let us pledge to join hands and build an India that truly exemplifies this SUDHAR,” he added.
President Mukherjee, who inaugurated a new Archives and Research Centre at Sabarmati Ashram here, further said we live in times when the world needs Gandhi more than ever.
“The responsibility we shoulder to spread his word and message is more pressing now than ever before. Gandhiji was not just the Father of our Nation but also the maker of our Nation. He gave us the moral vector to guide our actions, a measure by which we are judged. Gandhiji saw India as an inclusive nation where every section of our population lived in equality and enjoyed equal opportunity,” he added.