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September 9, 2000
India must remain strong and vigilant: PM
Amberish K Diwanji in New York
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Saturday reiterated his message that while India sought peace, it had learnt from its bitter lessons in the past that it had to remains strong and vigilant. "I went to Lahore in a bus with the hope of peace and the result, as you all know, was Kargil," he said.
The prime minister was speaking at a Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan function in New York on Saturday, where he was the chief guest at a show seeking to highlight Indian culture and how it was being propagated in the United States.
"Even then, we have always sought peace in the subcontinent and our effort will always be to secure peace," he declared.
But he added that the past 53 years had taught India that it had no option but to remain strong and vigilant. This statement of his was greeted by loud applause by the audience, comprising the Indian community living in and around New York, especially New Jersey that has a sizeable Indian population.
The function was held to mark 125 years of Vande Mataram, first sung by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, and which was to become a rallying song for the freedom struggle.
Vajpayee said that he was pleased to see the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan celebrate the song's 125th anniversary in such a grand fashion.
"Vande Mataram is not just a song but an inspiration to an entire generation. And even today, whenever people seek freedom they will sing Vande Mataram, Vajpayee said.
"And today, 125 years later, the song has crossed the seas to reach the US. And from here, I am sure it will go across the entire world," he added.
The prime minister added that Vande Mataram means 'I bow to Mother' and the mother in reference was Mother India.
"But it is not just our matrubhumi (motherland) but also our Ma Prithvi (Mother Earth) that we must now bow our heads to. The mother earth that sustains all life," he said.
He pointed out that the beauty of the song was that it could be sung in different ways. "You have just heard the version sung by (A R) Rahmansaab, and others have played it set to a raga or different styles," the prime minister explained.
At the function, one of the prime minister's poems, Hum Jung Na Hone Denge (We will not let war occur), was set to a musical tune and to which some small children danced. It was after that, when Vajpayee addressed the audience of Indian origin people who had gathered in the auditorium, that he spoke of how he had gone to Lahore with great hope and in return got Kargil.
"We have learnt to stay strong and vigilant, but even then, our hope and our effort will always be towards peace in the subcontinent," he said.
The Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan show was titled Vande Mataram and the theme was clearly a show of Indian culture thriving in the United States of America.
The event was held at the Fashion Institute of Technology, State University of New York, building. Immediately after, the prime minister walked across the hallway to inaugurate the third International Ayurveda Conference, also held in the same building but in a separate auditorium.
The Ayurveda Conference, organised by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, was advanced by a month so that Vajpayee could be invited to inaugurate the seminar.
Speaking after the inauguration, which was done by lighting a lamp, Vajpayee said Ayurveda was not just about treating ailments but described an entire way of life.
He said Indians in the US and in India must seize the world's growing interest in herbal and alternative medicine systems and propagate not just Ayurveda but other ancient medicines of India.
"I am pleased to note that Ayurveda and yoga have become popular in the West, but we must continue to spread it," he said.
The prime minister warned about Indian herbal medicines being patented by the Western world and which would deprive India of its knowledge. He appealed those gathered at the ceremony – doctors, scientists, and academics – to patent Indian herbs and knowledge before it was lost.
Vajpayee pointed out that India too could earn foreign exchange like China through the effective marketing of its ancient and herbal medicines, and again appealed to the Indians gathered to put their effort towards the same.
"The issue today before all of us is to provide the best medicines at the lowest price, and for this the world's dependence on Ayurveda as an alternative system was growing," the prime minister said.
rediff.com has assigned Associate Editors Amberish K Diwanji and Savera R Someshwar to cover Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to the United States. Don't forget to log into rediff.com for news of this historic visit as it happens!
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