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Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am happy to inaugurate the National Conference on Communal Harmony and Social Peace, which is being organized by the Rashtrasant Tukdoji Maharaj Nagpur University. This University has been named after a great saint, thinker, renowned social reformer and an exponent of harmony and peace. Born in 1909 in Amravati District, Tukdoji Maharaj wanted to uplift human society and motivate people towards justice, love and affection and to bridge differences, so that they could live in a healthy society based on freedom, equality and brotherhood. His book "Gram Geeta" contains valuable measures for a stable and balanced approach to life and for the holistic development of societies. This is the reason we are celebrating the 100th year of his birth. It is an appropriate occasion to look at issues of harmony and peace within the country and in the world at large.

Mankind shares a common origin and, in fact a common destiny. The human race has often been described in our scriptures as "Ekavansha Manusyajathi" - human beings are one race. In India, throughout the ages great men and women philosophers and saints have spoken about oneness. All saints such as Gnyaneshwar, Tukaram, Eknath, Namdev, Ramdas Swami, Tulsidas, Kabir, Surdas - spread the same message. They were of the view that all religions extol people to be good individuals, conscious of their duties towards fellow human beings with whom they should adopt a compassionate and tolerant approach. Such great saints do not take birth again and again. Therefore, it is necessary to preach and propagate their teachings to the new generation, so as to make human lives peaceful and meaningful. Sant Tukdoji Maharaji said: -

Which means: -

We are all human beings. It is our duty to bring honor to humanity.

That there is happiness for all is our task.

It is this perspective that will help us in promoting human welfare. We need to look at eradicating poverty, hunger, disease and ignorance and build a more equitable world, as we fight to defeat terrorism and work for world peace.

History bears testimony to the fact that whenever harmony existed between peoples and nations, mankind made progress. On the other hand, in situations of disharmony and strife, there was a lack of progress. History contains many such lessons. We must learn from history. While we must not repeat mistakes of the past, we must carry forward the rich legacy of achievements and values of which we are the inheritors.

India is a land of different religions, cultures, ethnicities and languages. Every Indian has many sub identities also. It is not only religion or region or language or ethnicity alone that gives an identity as an Indian, but the identity emerges from a complex web of diversity. Since ancient times, it has been the proud privilege of Indians to live in harmony with each other. In our country, there are numerous instances where members of one community have unhesitatingly helped members of another community, by providing shelter, help and assistance, including during difficult times. These are the examples that we need to follow. This is the basis of India's culture. The basic fact is that all Indians, to whatever religion, region or community they might belong to, are Indians. We should not let our narrower identities stand in conflict with our identity as Indians. We have a precious heritage to maintain and we cannot allow ourselves to act contrary to it.

In this diversity, the founding fathers of our nation saw a vibrant Indian identity. We have flourished and maintained our unity. The image of India all over the world is that of a country with strong democratic roots, and a tradition of mutual respect between different communities. The spirit of harmony and tolerance has been our hallmark. We need to understand that those who pursue a divisive agenda see every element of our diversity as an issue they can use, for polarizing us for their selfish interests. In such situations, as Indians, we must collectively stand up as one. The message should be that we will not pursue a divisive agenda, but pursue an agenda for the growth and prosperity of our nation and we will not be divided whatever the provocation. We will not waiver in our commitment to our intrinsic values and strength nor deviate from our national goals. We will retain our diversity as our strength. We will continue to contribute to the world with the richness of our culture, thought and philosophy, which is based on harmony and tolerance.

The recent events in Mumbai evoked a strong reaction and deserve to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. They are an attack on our composite culture and identity. Terrorists belong to no religion. They are messengers of death and destruction who kill innocent people with the objective of creating chaos and discordance in societies and hampering the progress of nations. They wish to generate a fear psychosis and destroy harmony existing amongst people. A peaceful and tolerant society is the result of understanding and compassion, developed over long periods of time, in an enlightened and progressive environment. We should not forget that this is our rich heritage. We cannot allow our national ethos to be affected by terrorists, who have been brought up in an environment of intolerance. Do not forget that our unity will be the greatest weapon in our armour in the fight against terrorism. As a country of many communities, unless we can live in harmony with each other, respecting each other's beliefs and habits, we cannot build a great and united nation.

Measures are being taken by the Government to strengthen security and all the citizens of the country must come forward to support efforts to eradicate terrorism and violence. At this time, the nation needs the contribution of every individual to strengthen every fabric of our nation. Let us create an atmosphere of cooperation and work for the advancement of India. After the Mumbai attacks, the global community has, in one voice, expressed its solidarity with India. The time has come for all nations to join hands to work collectively against this common enemy, the phenomenon of global terrorism. Terrorism and its sponsors have to be defeated for building a peaceful world.

Our scriptures tell us that we should have long-term objectives and pursue them.

Dirgham pasyata ma hrasvam

Look far ahead; do not be shortsighted.

It is our vision to create a strong and progressive India, where all its people can live a life of dignity in an atmosphere of peace.

As Governments we must take all necessary measures to combat terrorism. As societies, we need to reaffirm our commitment to the welfare of humanity at large and as individual we need to inculcate a tolerant approach. Mahatma Gandhi has given the very valuable philosophy of truth and tolerance to guide us in our quest for peace and development.

I would like to emphasize the need to infuse in the youth of our country with an understanding of India as a country with a deep civilisational commitment to peace, tolerance and harmony, which imbibes the concept of unity in diversity. Our education system and our curriculum, apart from imparting skills to the youth for earning a livelihood, should also help them become responsible citizens, who understand that people of different cultures, religions and backgrounds, live not only in their own nation, but indeed in the world. They should develop the ability to contribute to the welfare of humankind and promote peace. They should spread Mahatma Gandhi's message of ahimsa and humanity all over the world. I am confident that the students of Tukdoji Maharaj Nagpur University will be active participants in propagating the wise words of Sant Tukdoji Maharaj who gave us a vision of universal brotherhood.

I conclude with his words: -

Let brotherhood prevail in India forever,

May this boon be granted.

I wish all success to the Conference and to the University.

Thank You.


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