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Hindutva is liberal: Vajpayee

December 31, 2002 15:16 IST

Following is the text of Prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's musings from Goa:

Hearty New Year greetings to all my dear countrymen and to all members of the Indian Diaspora living in far-flung corners of the world.

I also send my greetings to our brothers and sisters both in the neighbouring countries and in countries far and wide. May the New Year bring greater peace, prosperity and happiness to the entire humanity.

I have come to Goa to see the sun set on 2002 and to welcome the first morning of 2003. I had come here more than a few decades ago to participate in the Goa Liberation Struggle, which saw the sun set on this last enclave of colonial rule in India.

Since then, Goa has progressed in many ways, retaining its old charm, which is the alchemy of diverse historical influences, and yet adding many new features that heighten the appeal of its original attraction: the unique combination of the sun, the sand, the sea, swaying coconut trees, the rivers and forests, and of course the natural hospitality of the Goan people.

The sight of the sea and the sound of its waves can easily make one's mind wonder about the eternal and the infinite. My wandering thoughts, however, return to India.

How many waves of history have crashed at the shore of our Motherland! How many New Year suns have dawned on its vast expanse! In our preoccupation with the Here and Now, we sometimes tend to forget how ancient, and yet how enduring and self-renewing is our civilisation, indomitable, inclusive, absorbing all the positive influences brought ashore by the tides of history and making them its own.

I recall here the ringing words of Swami Vivekananda in his essay, The Future of India: "It is the same India which has withstood the shocks of centuries, of hundreds of foreign invasions, of hundreds of upheavals of manners and customs. It is the same land, which stands firmer than any rock in the world, with its undying vigour, indestructible life. Its life is of the same nature as the soul, without beginning and without end, immortal; and we are the children of such a country."

Our diversity is as much a source of India's greatness --- and of Indians' pride in their nation --- as her antiquity. Foreigners have always wondered how we can embrace so much diversity in religion, ethnicity, language and lifestyles, and yet remain a united nation. What they may not understand, and which we must never forget, is that living with diversity, and yet weaving a thread of unity and harmony through it, has been a way of life throughout India since time immemorial.

This is as true in Goa as it is in Gujarat, in Jammu and Kashmir as much as in Kerala, in Manipur as much as in Madhya Pradesh.

From time to time, the theme of unity in diversity provokes intense debate, even controversies. I wish to comment on two distinct voices, which have become louder after the Gujarat elections.

On the one hand, secularism is being pitted against Hindutva, under the belief that the two are antithetical to one another. This is incorrect and untenable.

Secularism is a concept of the State, enjoining upon it the duty to show respect for all faiths and to practice no discrimination among citizens on the basis of their beliefs.

In this sense, India has been secular since the beginning of her known history. We chose to remain wedded to secularism even when Pakistan was carved out on the basis of the spurious and communal Two-Nation Theory. This could not have been possible if the majority of Indians were not secular.

Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore has explained it very well: "India has all along been trying experiments in evolving a social unity within which all the different peoples could be held together, while fully enjoying the freedom of maintaining their differences. The tie has been as loose as possible, yet as close as circumstances permitted. This has produced something like a United States of a social federation, whose common name is Hinduism."

Hinduism's acceptance of the diversity of faiths is the central feature of secularism in India. As Maharshi Aurobindo points out, "Indian religion has always felt that since the minds, the temperaments and the intellectual affinities of men are unlimited in their variety, a perfect liberty of thought and of worship must be allowed to the individual in his approach to the Infinite."

On the other hand, some people project Hindutva, which presents a viraat darshan [broad, all-encompassing view] of human life, in a narrow, rigid and extremist manner --- an unfortunate and unacceptable interpretation that runs totally contrary to its true spirit.

Hindutva is an integral understanding of the entire Creation, showing the way both to the Here and the Hereafter. It emphasises the inseparable relationship between the individual and society, as well as between man's material and spiritual needs. Hindutva is liberal, liberating and brooks no ill will, hatred or violence among different communities on any ground.

We need to affirm and promote that true understanding of Hindutva, which is forward-looking, not one that seeks to take us back; that which makes us capable of meeting the challenges of the modern world, not one that is stuck in the grooves of the past; that which is reform-minded, and not one that protects obscurantism and injustice, against which all the reformers of the past have fought.

If understood and practiced in this enlightened sense, which is how Swami Vivekananda and other great patriots propounded it, the current controversy over Hindutva will be seen as wholly unnecessary.

There is no difference between such Hindutva and Bharatiya, since both are expressions of the same chintan [thought]. Both affirm that India belongs to all, and all belong to India. It means that all Indians have equal rights and equal responsibilities. It entails recognition of our common national culture, which is enriched by all the diverse religious and non-religious traditions in India.

For centuries both have synonymously pointed to out national identity. Even the Supreme Court has held that Hindutva is a neither a religious nor a political concept, but connotes a noble and elevating way of life.

This Indianness is what we should all celebrate and further strengthen. It is obvious that we have to remain committed to the task of strengthening our common Indianness in spite of every provocation, big or small, coming from our western neighbour.

I often find it odd that though India reconciled itself long ago to the creation of Pakistan, the latter continues to find it difficult to accept the unchangeable reality of a united and secular India. Pakistan, even after five and a half decades of failed pursuit, seems to be unready to face the truth that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India and will always remain so.

For the past several years, the rulers in Islamabad have, almost as a last resort, surrendered to the temptation of targeting India with terrorism, inspired by religious extremism. Innocent children, women and men are being routinely killed, temples are stormed, our symbols of democracy are attacked, and our security forces are challenged --- all in the name of a "holy religious war" and "freedom struggle".

This campaign of jihadi terrorism, too, is doomed to fail. By rejecting Islamabad's call for boycott of polls, and participating enthusiastically in the free and fair elections to the state assembly held in October, the people of Jammu and Kashmir have yet again expressed their will and preference. I am convinced that someday, hopefully soon, the people and rulers of Pakistan will realise the futile and counter-productive nature of its Kashmir policy.

Pakistan cannot fight religious extremism and modernise itself as long it chooses to be in a position of permanent confrontation with India. Therefore, it must stop cross-border terrorism and abandon its insistence on the "centrally" of the Kashmir issue.

Let our two countries agree to promote mutually beneficial trade and economic ties, strengthen cultural relations, and encourage greater people-to-people contacts. Once our two peoples experience the fruits of a tension-free and cooperative environment, we will be able to see the Kashmir issue in its proper dimension and arrive at an amicable and lasting solution.

Dear Countrymen, many pressing tasks confront us in the New Year and in the years ahead. As far as the government is concerned, we are determined to accelerate the pace of implementation of numerous developmental initiatives that we have begun in recent years and to unveil several new ones in the New Year.

I would like to characterise many of these initiatives as various components of the "Connectivity Revolution". Highway connectivity and rural road connectivity are two of the most ambitious infrastructure projects since Independence.

We are also strengthening the rail and air connectivity in our country. Telecom connectivity, internet connectivity and the attendant IT revolution have rapidly modernised our economy and society.

I must also add here that our many foreign policy initiatives have yielded a better connectivity between the international community and an India that is today stronger and more self-confident than ever before. Another important endeavour will soon be added to this revolution. It is the River Connectivity project.

I would, however, place a far bigger importance on another connectivity effort, one to which I referred earlier - Connectivity of the hearts and minds of one billion Indians.

No nation has ever attained greatness without first attaining success in the awakening and organising of the whole strength of its people. Unity of minds, unity of purpose, and unity in action --- this is what we have to demonstrate in every sphere of our national life.

We have to strengthen the spirit of nationalism, and make it an inspiring and motivating force to drive all our endeavours. This is how India won the struggle for becoming a Free Nation. And this is how India will have to win the struggle for becoming a Developed nation - free at last of poverty and unemployment, of illiteracy and disease, of poor shelter and sanitation, and of all other curses of underdevelopment.

For this, we have to expand the area of consensus on economic and other urgent reforms, so that these can be implemented speedily and effectively. To me, the true test of reforms is when they beneficially touch the lives of all Indians --- especially the poorest and those living in backward regions.

We are making progress on all these fronts. But the progress is not always as rapid, and as regionally socially balanced as we desire. There is a lot that the central and state governments have to do to speed up this process.

I appeal to all our legislators, both at the Centre and in states, to show the same dedication to doing their duty as was seen in the last session of Parliament, when a record number of bills were passed.

But there is an even larger area where the people's own self-initiated and self-organised efforts will produce the desired results. I am convinced that there is an immense untapped energy in our society, which can and must be channelled for constructive purposes, in order to bring about a positive change, even if such change is on a small scale and its impact is felt only locally.

I would like our people to reduce their dependence on government for everything. For example, why should our cities and villages be so unclean and unhygienic? Can this not be changed visibly by changing the habits and the mindset of each one of us? Shouldn't citizens themselves initiate a drive for water conservation, energy conservation, and conservation of our precious cultural heritage? Shouldn't our society come down heavily against those who commit atrocities against women, dalits, adivasis and other weaker sections? Shouldn't our rich people provide more philanthropic resources for the care of the orphans, disabled, destitute, and senior citizens?

My thoughts especially go out to our children, who are the future of our nation. The government and society should work together with greater commitment to make all the emotional and material investment we can, to ensure that every Indian child is well fed, well educated and well looked after.

As a matter of fact, there are tens of thousands of unsung or little-sung heroes of development, both individuals and organisations, all over the country. They are inspired by the spirit of nationalism and the true meaning of religion as service to society --- Nar Seva is Narayan Seva.

Many of them are young people. Few things bring me greater joy than when I get to meet these selfless volunteers with soaring idealism. May the number of such individuals and organisations increase a thousand fold, and may they inspire each of us to do something more for our country in the New Year.

These are some of the thoughts and reflections that the idyllic setting in Goa has triggered in my mind, and which I wish to share with you.

Once again, I wish you all a very happy New Year.

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