2015 Historian, Journalist and Peace-Builder, Chief Guest
The India of December 2015 is very different from the India of 1934 or 1975 or the year 2000. These are new times. India has a new equation with the world. We are now a major power, large in numbers, rich in talent, strong in youthfulness, and visible, even conspicuous, in every part of the planet.
During the old struggle which led to these Awards, the question was, ‘How do we free ourselves from the domination of the British Empire?’
Today the question is, ‘What will Rising India do for the world?’
Are we ready for this new role? Will India’s performance be better than that of smaller Western powers when they were the top dogs?
As we in India reflect on our global role, we need to think also of life inside India and in Indian society. In their time, Jamnalal Bajaj and his wonderful colleagues looked around and said to themselves, ‘We cannot bear this subjugation and this exploitation. We will throw off our shackles.’ And they did.
We should look around us and ask, ‘Are we satisfied with our society with its suppressions and oppressions? Should we not tackle the humiliations in Indian society even as our fathers addressed the humiliation of being ruled by a small nation thousands of miles away?’
I am not speaking of what our governments should or should not do. I am speaking of India’s social world, of all of us as members of Indian society. I am expressing a longing for social equality, not just the legal equality which our Constitution provides, but an actual equality, a society where we enjoy and give to one another, men, women and children, azaadi, aman, and aadar, where we as Indians allow fellow-Indians the fullest freedom, peace and respect.
We should ask ourselves: ‘Don’t we often suppress and shout down one another?’ ‘Do we recognize the goodness and potential greatness in our fellow citizens?’
‘Are we listening to one another? Do we know one another? Do we really know the life and thoughts of groups other than the one where we spend almost all our lives?’
Jamnalal Bajaj died suddenly in 1942, just before the great Quit India movement was launched. After independence, some persons said, ‘We need a Knit India movement for bringing Indians together.’ They were right.
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