KOCHI: With crimes against women rising across the country in recent times, President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday asserted the “protection and safety of our women and children must be a nationwide priority.”
“I do not consider a society or state to be civilised if its citizens’ behaviour towards women is uncivilised. When we brutalise a woman, we wound the soul of our civilisation. Not only does our Constitution guarantee equal rights to women but our culture and tradition also celebrate the feminine as divine. Protection and safety of our women and children must be a nationwide priority. The acid test of any society is its attitude towards women and children. India should not fail this test,” Mukherjee said while delivering the sixth K S Rajamony memorial lecture on India @70 here.
He underlined this point saying there should be no room for the intolerant Indian in the country. He reminded Indians were naturally argumentative but not intolerant. Mukherjee touched upon the unrest among student community and urged it to engage in discussion and debate.
“India has been since ancient times a bastion of free thought, speech and expression. We celebrate democracy which has been the core of our existence. Those in universities must engage in reasoned discussion and debate rather than propagate a culture of unrest. It is tragic to see them caught in the vortex of violence and disquiet,” the President said. He said the Indian society has always been characterised by open contestation of diverse schools of thought and debate.
While saying that there must be space for legitimate criticism and dissent, he said freedom of speech and expression were guaranteed to every Indian by the Constitution. “The time has come for collective efforts to rediscover the sense of national purpose and patriotism that alone can lift our nation on to the road of sustained progress and prosperity. Let us exert ourselves to strengthen India’s pluralism and diversity. Let us be uncompromising in rooting out violence, prejudice and hatred,” he said.
Sending a strong message to India’s politicians, Mukherjee said they should not take people for granted. “The leaders or political activists must listen to people, engage with them, learn from them and respond to their needs and concerns. Our lawmakers must never take people for granted. They must focus on the fundamental task of lawmaking and raising of issues of concern to the people,” he said.
While mentioning about continuous disruptions in parliament, the President said the trust placed by the people in the political system and those elected should not be betrayed. “No one who holds any elected office has been invited by the voters to occupy that office. "Each one has gone to the voters and pleaded for their votes and support,” he said.
Kerala Governor Justice P Sathasivam, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Kerala High Court Acting Chief Justice Thottathil B Radhakrishnan, Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien, former Chief Minister Oommen Chandy, K V Thomas MP, Venu Rajamony and R Balachandran were present.