Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday called upon the people to reflect on how to work together and contribute in arresting "disturbing trends" of intolerance, communal polarisation and incidents of violent crimes propelled by hate groups and mobs being witnessed in the country.
Addressing the Rajiv Gandhi Sadbhavana Award function, he said such "unsavoury" trends can only harm national interests and are an anathema to the promotion of peace and communal harmony.
The award was presented to former West Bengal Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. Singh, along with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and former union minister Karan Singh, who is the chairman of the advisory board of Rajiv Gandhi Sadbhavana award trust, were among those present.
Congress President Rahul Gandhi did not attend the function.
Talking about the present climate in the country, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi called for a collective resolve to fight forces of "divisiveness, hate and bigotry" in the country, as she asserted that former prime minister and her husband Rajiv Gandhi's 'Sadbhavana' has a great relevance and resonance in the current times.
Gopalkrishna Gandhi said all those opposed to 'zabardasti' (coercion), bigotry, cult of fear and hate, the centralisation of power, the nexus of big power and big money, need to work together. "That means shedding personal institutional egos, The larger entity, be it the bigger leader, the bigger party or the larger community is expected to make the larger gesture....
"I envision the democratic parties and movements of India in the wisdom of their dynamism harmonising their strengths to meet the challenge of harmonies opposite - suspicion, bigotry and violence," he said.
The award, given every year on the former prime minister's birth anniversary, was instituted to commemorate his contributions to promote peace, communal harmony and fight against violence.
Manmohan Singh said the leadership and ideals of Rajiv Gandhi will always "act as a beacon for all of us, particularly in moments of great difficulty and confusion".
"Another cause for solemn reflection today is some disturbing trends that our country has been witnessing over the past few years. Those unsavoury trends of growing intolerance, communal polarisation, growing incidence of violent crimes propelled by hatred of certain groups and of mobs taking the law in their own hands can only harm the national interests of our country," he said
The former prime minister said they are also an anathema for promotion of peace, national integration and communal harmony, which are the cherished objectives enshrined in the Constitution.
"All of us need to pause and reflect on how we can work together and contribute to arresting these trends," he said.
Manmohan Singh lauded Gopalkrishna Gandhi for speaking with courage and conviction on these trends, "holding up a mirror to our people at large".
He said he has pointed out that the "popularly held position need not be blindly accepted, but should be probed deeper to find out whether it is justified in wider national interest".
Sonia Gandhi said Gopalkrishna Gandhi is an uncompromising champion of values enshrined in the Constitution which are now under "determined and systematic assault".
"Rajiv Gandhi was an unwavering believer that India's unity was actually derived from and strengthened by her incredible diversity. That is what Sadbhavna meant to him -- not just acceptance of, not just respect for, but most fundamentally a celebration of our society's many diversities," the Congress leader said.
She said Rajiv Gandhi's 'Sadbhavana' has great relevance and resonance in the current times, which was "not just a passive acquiescence and tolerance of different points of view, but active engagement - so that every citizen of India is enabled to lead a life of dignity, security and self-respect."
She said that growing prosperity and social liberalism were two sides of the same coin for the former prime minister.
"Both had to go hand in hand. Technological capabilities would have little value in the climate of growing scientific obscurantism and social prejudice.
"We have seen that the opening of the economy and the closing of the mind is a dangerous and destructive mix," she noted.
She said there is pain and anguish in Gopalkrishna Gandhi's writings and "every right thinking and right acting Indian shares not only his analysis in what is going wrong, but also his profoundly sensitive articulation of what needs to be done".
"In conferring this award to Shri Gopalkrishna Gandhi, we collectively express our resolve to oppose the ideologies that reject the composite essence of our nationhood and to fight the forces of divisiveness, hate and bigotry," she said.
Sonia Gandhi also recalled the achievements of Rajiv Gandhi as prime minister, particularly in Constitutional empowerment of panchayats and 'Nagar Palikas' through reservation for women.
She said he brought peace to troubled regions of the country, even if it meant sacrificing elected Congress state governments in the process.
Former recipients of this award include Mother Teresa, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Mohammed Yunus, Lata Mangeshkar, Sunil Dutt, Dilip Kumar, Kapila Vatsyayan, Teesta Setalvad, Swami Agnivesh, K R Narayanan, Ustad Amjad Ali Khan, Muzaffar Ali and Shubha Mudgal.
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