"The firm anchoring of Secularism as a core character of India polity one of the most important contributions of Jawaharlal Nehru,” says the Vice President



"The firm anchoring of Secularism as a core character of India polity one of the most important contributions of Jawaharlal Nehru,” says the Vice President, while releasing the book “Jawaharlal Nehru and The Indian Polity in Perspective” at Thiruvananthapuram 

The Vice President of India, Shri M. Hamid Ansari has said Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru left an indelible mark on the making of modern India. Addressing the gathering after releasing the book “Jawaharlal Nehru and The Indian Polity in Perspective”, edited by Prof. (Dr.) P.J. Alexander, at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala today, Shri M. Hamid Ansari said that the firm anchoring of Secularism as a core character of India polity is one of the most important contributions of Pandit Nehru. 


The Vice President said that as one of the titans of the national movement and the first Prime Minister and architect of modern India, a discussion is required on Nehru, particularly in the backdrop of the dangers from religious superstition, obscurantism and fundamentalism at the present moment. To examine the Nehruvian legacy is to renew our fight against religious deformations in thought and practice, he added.

Following is the text of the Vice President’s address on the occasion: 

“Prof. Ahsotosh Varshney, writing in the Indian Express on Nehru said, “To appraise Nehru in a purely abstract manner, while necessary, would constitute an analytic insufficiency. Great leaders always go beyond the purely intellectual or the rational. They touch emotionally. They construct an invisible bond. They become the embodiment of a nation. For two generations of Indians, if not more, Nehru was one such political leader, second only to Mahatma Gandhi”.

A leader and shaper of the Freedom Movement that won India its freedom, Pandit Nehru spent nine-and-a-half-years in British prisons, a period longer than Gandhiji, Sardar Patel, Rajaji or Jaiprakash Narayan. Jawaharlal Nehru was a visionary and a maker of the modern India. He was also a man of letters.

The dust of time may have blurred the picture for those who are coming of age now, but Jawaharlal Nehru enjoyed a connect with the masses of India, a popularity that any political leader today would be envious of. Nehru loved India, and the people of India loved him in return. Eyewitness stories about how India’s masses, rural and urban, adored Nehru are simply too many to recount.

Nehru left an indelible mark on the making of modern India. The Indian Constitution owes much of its liberal and progressive characters to the foresight and vision of leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru. The eight point resolution regarding aims and objectives, which was moved by Pandit Nehru in the Constituent Assembly on 13th December, 1946 set the tone for the Constitution drafting process and cast the basic features of the Constitution.

While Nehru’s vision touched almost all the aspects of modern India’s growth as a nation- from its Constitution to its foreign and developmental policies, I would like to briefly highlight two particular areas where Nehru’s contributions are particularly cherished by a grateful nation. One of these was the firm anchoring of Secularism as a core character of India polity. Nehru believed that in a country like India, which has many faiths and religions, no real nationalism could be built except on the basis of secularity. Any narrower approach “must exclude a section of the population and then nationalism itself will have a restricted meaning than it should possess.”

Nehru’s exposition of secularism did not mean an absence of religion, but putting religion on a different plane from that of normal political and social life. It was firmly rooted in affirmation of social and political equality. To quote Nehru:

“We call our state a secular one. The word ‘secular’ is not a very happy one. And yet for want of better word, we have used it. What exactly does it mean? It does not obviously mean a state where religion is discouraged. It means freedom of religion and conscience including freedom for those who have no religion, subject only to their not interfering with each other or with the basic conceptions of our state…..The word secular, however, conveys something much more to me, although that might not be its dictionary meaning. It conveys the idea of social and political equality. Thus, a caste-ridden society is not properly secular. I have no desire to interfere with any persons’ belief but when those beliefs become petrified in caste divisions, undoubtedly they affect the social structure of the state. They, prevent us from realising the idea of equality which we claim to place before ourselves.”

Nehru’s concept of secularism was to serve as an instrument of national integration, actively promoting social and political change in the direction of eliminating inequality. For Nehru, the fight against inequality was tied up with the fight against economic backwardness and underdevelopment.

Jawaharlal Nehru was also a visionary of a modern India and played a major role in establishing a modern scientific and technological infrastructure and strove to promote scientific temper.

He oversaw the establishment of many institutions of higher education, including the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) and the National Institutes of Technology (NIT). Nehru envisioned the use of nuclear energy beyond its use in weapons and established the Atomic Energy Commission of India (AEC) in 1948. Over 45 Central laboratories in different fields of science were launched during his time. He was also responsible for initiating the first steps to launch India into the electronics and space era.

But more than the physical facilities—Nehru was also concerned with developing the scientific attitude, or what he called, at different times, the “scientific method”, the “scientific approach”, or the “scientific temper.

For Nehru the development of Science and Technology was not an abstract notion or a means to military power. For him science was essential for building a modern India. It was to be a tool to eradicate poverty and want, an instrument of eliminating inequality and building a just society. The scientific approach was to be the attitude of all Indians in their social interactions.

Inaugurating the 34th session of the Indian Science Congress, which met in Delhi in January 1947, he expressed the hope that as “India was on the verge of independence and science in India too was coming of age, it would try to solve the problems of new India by rapid planned development in all sectors and try to make her more and more scientific minded”.

Today, as we proudly enumerate the technical and scientific prowess of our nation, we but acknowledge that the countdown to the launch of the Mars orbiter started with Jawaharlal Nehru.

The book, edited by Prof. Alexander and with contributions from eminent persons like Justice K T Thomas, Dr. Rajan Kurukkal, Dr. B. Vivekanandan, Shri M G Radhakrishnan and others, on Nehru’s role in shaping the polity of modern India is timely. As one of the titans of the national movement and the first Prime Minister and architect of modern India, his dynamic and towering leadership and progressive ideas richly deserve to be recalled and evaluated. Nehru’s services were many sided and the book should be of interest every Indian.

This discussion is required, particularly in the backdrop of the dangers from religious superstition, obscurantism and fundamentalism at the present moment. To examine the Nehruvian legacy is to renew our fight against religious deformations in thought and practice, which disorient the consciousness of the people, which impede the realization of the secular ideal, which thwart the pursuit of national self-reliance and of a just society.

I thank the editor and the contributors for this thought provoking book as well as the T M Varghese Foundation for publishing it. I wish them all the very best.” 
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Remarks by Vice President of India, Shri M. Hamid Ansari, after conferring the Sree Chithira Thirunal Award upon Ambassador T.P. Sreenivasan at Thiruvananthapuram 

The Vice President of India, Shri M. Hamid Ansari has said Sree Chithira Thirunal, the last Maharaja of the Princely State of Travancore, was an architect of modern day Kerala. Shri M. Hamid Ansari said that in 1932, he carried out a set of Constitutional Reforms, - forming the first Bicameral Legislature and willingly agreed to reduce some of his political powers. The Vice President said this during the Sree Chithira Thirunal Award ceremony in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala today.

Conferring the award upon Ambassador T.P. Sreenivasan, Shri M. Hamid Ansari said since his superannuation, Ambassador Sreenivasan has become intensively involved in the public life in Kerala.

Following is the text of the Vice President’s address on the occasion:

“Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, popularly known as Sree Chithira Thirunal, the last Maharaja of the Princely State of Travancore, was an architect of modern day Kerala. In 1932, he carried out a set of Constitutional Reforms, - forming the first Bicameral Legislature and willingly agreed to reduce some of his political powers. He enacted the now famous Temple Entry Proclamation in 1936, established the University of Travancore (now the University of Kerala) in 1937 and is credited with allocating a substantial share of the State’s revenue towards furthering education. He oversaw the creation of several public services like road transport department, power generation projects and irrigation schemes.

He initiated several social reforms, including by codifying succession norms. Several progressive measures including those dealing with Hindu Widows Remarriage, Child Marriage Restraint, Suppression of Immoral Traffic, Maternity Benefits aimed at the betterment of women and children were also introduced by him. He is also credited for the start of industrialization in the state by utilizing the local raw materials such as rubber, ceramics and minerals. The foundation of Sree Chitra Art Gallery, which features a unique collection of traditional and contemporary Indian paintings, and Sri Swathi Thirunal Music Academy, since renamed as Sree Swathi Thirunal College of Music in 1962, bear witness to his passion for arts and music.

It is, therefore, befitting that this award, instituted in the name of an enlightened leader, is being conferred upon another bright son of Kerala.

My joy is compounded as the recipient is also a member of my own tribe of the Indian Foreign Service, where he made a distinguished career for 37 years. Ambassador T.P. Sreenivasan served as India’s Permanent Representative in Vienna and Governor for India of the International Atomic Energy Agency. He was our Ambassador to Austria and Fiji and High Commissioner to Kenya. He has also served in various capacities in New Delhi, Washington, New York, Tokyo, Thimphu and Yangon.

Since his superannuation, or as he said, “return to his homeland,” he has become intensively involved in the public life in Kerala. He has continued his passion for education by serving as the Vice-Chairman and Executive Head of the Kerala State Higher Education Council with the rank of Vice-Chancellor.

Ambassador Sreenivasan has also been writing and lecturing widely on a variety of issues, prominently on Foreign policy related topics. He was a Visiting Fellow on Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, Washington in 2009 and he has authored four books. He also anchors the popular program Videsa Vicharam that has the aim of making the rarified domains of foreign policy and diplomatic dealings more accessible to the general public. The award is an apt recognition of his multi-faceted talents and years of public service.

I wish him many more years of using his exceptional talents and energy in the service of the land he so loves.” 
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Vice President Sri. Hamid Ansari calls for positive interaction between different religions 
Vice President Shri. M Hamid Ansari today called upon people of different faiths and religious traditions to have a mutual understanding and respect that allow them to live and cooperate with each other in spite of their differences.

Inaugurating an Interfaith Conference at Malappuram, Mr Ansari noted that interreligious and interfaith dialogue had to be more than mere words or talk. ''It must include human interaction and relationships, '' he said.

Quoting Swami Vivekananda on his birth anniversary, the Vice President said that tolerance alone is not strong enough a foundation for building an inclusive and pluralistic society. It must be coupled with acceptance and understanding.

''We need to challenge ourselves to see beyond the stereotypes and preconceptions that prevent us from accepting others. Dialogue removes misunderstanding and promotes empathy and understanding. And in this crucial task interfaith dialogue plays an important role,'' Shri. Ansari added.

''The purpose of interfaith dialogue is to increase our understanding of and respect for other religious systems and institutions, thereby increasing our appreciation of their values'' he said, adding that there should be a cooperative and positive interaction between people of different religious traditions, at both the individual and institutional level.

''Each party remains true to their own beliefs while respecting the right of the other to practice their faith freely,'' he added.

The Vice President noted that India has been home to all the great religions of the world. ''Our society has, for centuries, provided a unique social and intellectual environment in which many distinct religions have not only co-existed peacefully but have also enriched each other.''

He said Kerala has had a long tradition of religious pluralism. It is a state that has the oldest traditions of Islam and Christianity in India and is known for the relative harmony that exists between the various religious groups.

Recalling the remarks made by Prime Minister at a public function in Kerala last year, Vice President said that the spirit of pluralism and accommodation of cultural diversity pervades the Constitution of India as well as the dominant political discourse in the country.

Vice President also said that acceptance goes a step beyond tolerance. It is a person's assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition without attempting to change it, protest, or exit. You can tolerate something without accepting it, but you cannot accept something without tolerating it.

Wishing the conference success, the Vice President said that Kerala has had a long tradition of religious pluralism and the organizers of the event were inheritors of this tradition. 
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Remarks by Vice President of India, Shri M. Hamid Ansari, at the inauguration of the Interfaith Conference at Malappuram, Kerala 


The Vice President of India, Shri M. Hamid Ansari has said that tolerance alone is not a strong foundation for building an inclusive and pluralistic society. Addressing the gathering after inaugurating the Interfaith Conference at Malappuram in Kerala today, he said both the law and the public life in India promote and endorse religious tolerance.
During the function, Shri M. Hamid Ansari laid the foundation stone of the Straightpath International School campus.
Following is the text of the Vice President’s address on the occasion:
“It is a pleasure to be here today to address the Interfaith Conference.
India has been home to all the great religions of the world. Our society has, for centuries, provided a unique social and intellectual environment in which many distinct religions have not only co-existed peacefully but have also enriched each other.
The spirit of pluralism and accommodation of cultural diversity pervades the Constitution of India as well as the dominant political discourse in the country.
The Constitution lays down that the conduct of State shall be governed by the principle of secularism, that state action must be determined by fairness, non-partisanship and impartiality. The state shall treat all religions in the country with equal respect, that it shall not privilege one religion or community over others, that it shall provide equal opportunities to the followers of all religions. The institutions of the state are expected to ensure that the principle of secularism is observed in letter and spirit in public life.
Addressing a meeting here in Kerala last year, the Prime Minister of India, expressing concern over division and hostility on religious lines, had noted that ancient Indian plea of mutual respect for all faiths was now recognized the world over. He had said that the government of India stands by the declaration that came out of the interfaith conference on `Faith in Human Rights` at the Hague on 10th December 2008 and which defined what constitutes freedom of faith and how it is to be safeguarded. The Prime Minister had said:
“My government will ensure that there is complete freedom of faith and that everyone has the undeniable right to retain or adopt the religion of his or her choice without coercion or undue influence. My government will not allow any religious group, belonging to the majority or the minority, to incite hatred against others, overtly or covertly. Mine will be a government that gives equal respect to all religions.”
Both the law and the public life in India, thus, promote and endorse religious tolerance. Yet tolerance alone is not a strong enough a foundation for building an inclusive and pluralistic society. It must be coupled with acceptance and understanding. If we truly want to have a society at peace with itself, we need to move from merely tolerating each other’s mere presence to acceptance and understanding.
Swami Vivekananda said that we “must not only tolerate other religions, but positively embrace them, as truth is the basis of all religions.”
Tolerance is a virtue. It is freedom from bigotry. It is a version of the golden rule in that, insofar as we want others to treat us decently, we need to treat them decently as well. It is also a pragmatic formula for the functioning of society without conflict between different religions, political ideologies, nationalities, ethnic groups, or other us-versus-them divisions.
Acceptance goes a step beyond tolerance. It is a person's assent to the reality of a situation, recognizing a process or condition without attempting to change it, protest, or exit. You can tolerate something without accepting it, but you cannot accept something without tolerating it.
Moving from tolerance to acceptance is a journey that starts within ourselves; within our own understanding and compassion for people who are different to us. We need to challenge ourselves to see beyond the stereotypes and preconceptions that prevent us from accepting others. Dialogue removes misunderstanding and promotes empathy and understanding. Dialogue is essential for developing any understanding. And in this crucial task interfaith dialogue plays an important role.
The purpose of interfaith dialogue is to increase our understanding of and respect for other religious systems and institutions, thereby increasing our appreciation of their values.
To promote real understanding, interreligious and interfaith dialogue has to be more than mere words or talk. It must include human interaction and relationships. It should be about people of different faiths coming to a mutual understanding and respect that allows them to live and cooperate with each other in spite of their differences. It has to be a cooperative and positive interaction between people of different religious traditions, at both the individual and institutional level. Each party remains true to their own beliefs while respecting the right of the other to practice their faith freely.
Kerala has had a long tradition of religious pluralism. It is a state that has the oldest traditions of Islam and Christianity in India and is known for the relative harmony that exists between the various religious groups. Historically, there have been many instances when refuge has been provided to religious groups seeking freedom from religious and political persecution. In AD 52, when St. Thomas came to Kerala, he was received with open arms. Islam arrived through Malik Ibn Dinar, and a team of believers, who came from Saudi Arabia in the seventh century and set up the Cheraman Mosque. The Cochin or Malabar Jews, of Mizrahi and Sephardi heritage, are one of the oldest groups of Jews in India.
The organizers of this Interfaith Conference are the inheritors of a great tradition. Their effort to promote understanding and acceptance among various communities is commendable. I wish them all success.”


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