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Home > News > Report

'Message of 1857 is secularism'

Syed Firdaus Ashraf in New Delhi | May 11, 2007 13:16 IST

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"The message of 1857 is secularism," Congress party President Sonia Gandhi told the 50,000 people who had gathered at the Red Fort in New Delhi on Friday morning to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the First War of Independence.

"Sarv Dharma Sambhav is the message of the First War of Independence and we should never forget it," she said, adding, "The last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar had a Hindu vazir, Mukund Lal. In Kanpur Nanasaheb had a Muslim vazir, Azimullah Khan. Bahadur Shah Zafar repeatedly said he considered all relgions equal."

Bahadur Shah Zafar was arrested after the British defeated the Indian rebel forces, and exiled to Burma where he died in 1862. Nanasaheb -- whose real name was Dhondu Pant -- and his vazir Azimullah Khan disappeared after they lost the battle of Kanpur to the British. Despite the British's best efforts, the two men were never seen again.

The Human Resources Development and Youth Affairs ministries -- joint organisers of the 1857 celebrations -- have highlighted the secular aspect of the events of 1857 more than anything else.

Who killed India's 1857 legacy?

Youth Affairs Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar earlier told, "The message of 1857 was we Indians are all equal and there was no discrimination of religion among the freedom fighters."

Friday's Red Fort event featured dance and drama.

It also marked the end of the march from Meerut to New Delhi organised to mark the First War of Independence's sesquicentennial.

Members of the Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathana, who participated in the march, spoke at every village on the way to Delhi about the importance of secularism.

Speaking at the Red Fort celebration, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, "The message of 1857 is that all religions are equal. If someone divides us in the name of religion then we must all recall the values of 1857 in which freedom fighters fought together as one force against the British."

"Unity is our strength and identity," Dr Singh added. "Let us all work together and make a strong India."