The real dirt of India lies not on the streets but in "our minds and in our unwillingness to let go of views that divide society into them and us", President Pranab Mukherjee said on Tuesday emphasising on cleansing minds of divisive thoughts.
Speaking at a function in Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, Mukherjee cited Gandhiji's vision of India as an inclusive nation where every section of population lived in equality and enjoyed equal opportunity and said the essence of being human is "our trust of each other".
"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 spiralling violence, we must not forget the power of non-violence, dialogue and reason," he said.
Mukherjee has been speaking against intolerance after the Dadri lynching incident and subsequent events.
He said Ahimsa (or non-violence) is not a negative force and "we must free our public discourse of all forms of violence, physical as well as verbal. 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."
The President said Gandhiji gave us an object lesson in Ahimsa by taking the assassin's bullets with the name of Rama on his lips.
Inaugurating the Archives and Research Centre at the Ashram, he 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 Swatchch 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," said Mukherjee, who is on three-day maiden visit to Gujarat.
He said, "So long as the dehumanising practice of carrying night soil persists, we cannot have real Swachch Bharat".
Mukherjee said Gandhiji is not just the 'Father of our Nation' but also the maker of our nation as 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 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. And most of all, he did not want us to convert the celebration of his life and message into a mere ritual," the President said.
The real essence of Gandhiji's legacy and its continuing resonance lies in his injunction to us 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?, he asked.
Mukherjee said we must empower the poorest of the poor.
"Everyone must act as trustees of collective welfare and wealth. The essence of being human is our trust of each other. The damage we see to the environment all around us reminds us of the need for trusteeship, the President 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," Mukherjee said.
Remembering Gandhiji's favourite Bhajan, Vaishnava Jana To which was being sung in the morning as he entered 'Hriday Kunj' in the Ashram, he said this immortal hymn of Narsinh Mehta says the true devotee is one who is compassionate and moved by empathy for others.
"This capacity for compassion and empathy is the true foundation of our civilisation," Mukherjee said.
Gandhiji used a very special word for civilization, 'sudhar' (improvement). Sudhar 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.