Don't let contentious issues distract us: Prez

President Ram Nath Kovind delivers President's Address to the Nation on the eve of 72nd Independence Day, at Rashtrapati Bhawan in New Delhi on Tuesday. PTI

President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday appealed to citizens not to allow “contentious issues and extraneous debates” to distract them and flagged the mantra of non-violence given by Mahatma Gandhi, which he said, though rooted in the ancient wisdom, has a resonance even in the 21st century.

The President's remark, during his customary speech on the eve of Independence Day, comes in the backdrop of the recent incidents of lynching and mob violence being reported in some parts of the country.

Kovind though made no mention of any specific incident, he cautioned that at a time when India is at the cusp of achieving many of its long-awaited goals and is at a “pivotal moment’, “let contentious issues and extraneous debates do not distract us”.

Calling Gandhi as still the “moral compass” of the nation and the “embodiment of India”, the President said that Gandhi’s most noble mantra was to point out that the power of ahimsa (non-violence) was far greater than the power of himsa (violence). He also underlined that the spirit of India is the age-old ideal of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’.

“The power to stay your hand is far greater than the power to strike with your hand and himsa (violence) has no place in the society. The weapon of ahimsa was the most effective weapon Gandhiji gave us. Like his other teachings, it was rooted in the ancient wisdom of India and yet has a resonance in the 21st century and in our daily lives,” he said in his televised address to the nation," he said.

Recalling that India's freedom from the British rule in 1947 was the result of years, decades and centuries of sacrifice and valour on the part of our ancestors and our revered freedom fighters, Kovind said, “these were men and women of rare courage and foresight. They came from all regions of the country, all sections of society, all communities and all social and economic groups.”

He said that they could easily have compromised and settled for some personal benefit, but they did not. “Their commitment to India – to a free, sovereign, plural and egalitarian India – was absolute,” he said.

The President also paid his tributes to farmers noting they are upholding the freedom of the nation by ensuring food security and nutrition to citizens. He underlined that Independence Day is a day to renew our resolve to fill the “gaps that still remain in our nation-building project”.

Amid recent concerns over incidents related to the safety of women, the President said women were entitled to a life of their choice and security to fulfil their potential and we must ensure that.

Talking of the need for “partnership between citizen and government”, Kovind flagged the need for a sense of ownership among people for nation building and stressed, “the government has a leading role but not the sole role.”

Hailing the soldiers for “upholding our freedom by ensuring security from external threats”, the President, who is the Supreme Commander of Indian Armed Forces, also said, “as we give them better weapons and equipment, build supply chains for such equipment in India itself, or ensure welfare benefits for our soldiers, we live up to the principles of our freedom struggle.”

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