Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi spoke in unison on Thursday evening, lamenting, in separate speeches, the attempts being made to divide society on communal lines.
The occasion was a function at Jawahar Bhawan where eminent agriculture scientist M.S. Swaminathan was honoured with the Indira Gandhi National Integration Award by Dr. Singh and Ms. Gandhi.
Like many other great leaders of this country, Indira Gandhi was secular and liberal, Dr. Singh said. “Today, at a time when attempts are being made in some parts of the country to divide society on the basis of religion, caste and communities, it is all the more necessary to remember Indira Gandhi’s message.”
The Prime Minister’s comments come against the backdrop of the recent communal violence in Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh and in Kishtwar of Jammu and Kashmir.
Ms. Gandhi hit out at the RSS and the BJP without naming them. “We have always kept national unity as our top priority. There is always a danger from some ideologies, organisations and people who want to divide us. We need to remember Indira Gandhi’s courage and her sentiments so that we can fight that fear with conviction.”
In his speech, the Prime Minister said it would not be wrong to say India was able to achieve the Green Revolution because of Indira Gandhi’s leadership and Dr. Swaminathan’ efforts. “Based on this foundation, today we have been able to bring in the Food Security Act.”
Ms. Gandhi, too, referred to the Food Security Act, recalling the difficult times in the 1960s when India had to import foodgrains. In this context, she highlighted the role of Indira Gandhi and Dr. Swaminathan in making India self-reliant in the agricultural sector.
Dr. Singh also spoke of Indira Gandhi’s contribution to the social and economic development of the masses, stressing that she wanted to take the benefits of development to the weaker sections.
In his acceptance speech, Dr. Swaminathan said that when India had to import 10 million tonnes of foodgrains, Indira Gandhi planned the creation of a grain reserve of the same quantity. Saying food security had helped India achieve an independent foreign policy, he recalled that India’s help to people from the then East Pakistan and the nuclear test were the result of the confidence it achieved through food security in the wake of the Green Revolution.