Ours is a country of diversities. We follow different religions and speak different languages. Quite often our eating habits and life styles also vary. We have witnessed diverse aspects of history for the last several centuries.The struggle for Independence has united all these diversities into a firm chain. The slogan "Unity in Diversity" was inscribed firmly in our hearts. Every word of this meant sacrifice, patriotism and a firm faith in destiny.
Gandhiji raised a unique army of soldiers who had no weapons and they were forbidden from even talk about violence.This was a new definition of valour given by Gandhiji. People's faith in Gandhiji led the lawyers to give up practice, students left their schools and colleges and started filling up jails. Farmers left their fields and labourers their factories. In the last days of the struggle, things came to such a peak that the youth working with the Indian Navy also revolted. The country was witnessing a new kind of revolt. The roots of imperialism were shaken in the face ofthis struggle.
I take pride in this fact and I wish to reiterate that the freedom was won by the common man of this country - it was not gifted. It is for this reason that when the Constitution of India was framed, its opening lines said, "We, the people of India give to ourselves this Constitution". This constitution and this great country gave us the democracy, fundamental rights which enshrined equality of religion, caste, creed and gender and it is under this democratic system that 35 crore people exercised their franchise in the previous elections,a shining example of the largest democracy of the world. Gradually the African and Asian nations started attaining freedom. British imperialism started losing ground after India's independence and we witnessed the last chapter of British imperialism closing recently in Hong Kong.
The struggle for independence started from this Red Fort in 1857 and later the British imperialists prosecuted the brave soldiers of INA in this very same Fort . Netaji Subash Chandra Bose gave the slogan "Lal Qila Chalo". Lal Qila became the symbol of India's struggle for freedom. The freedom fighters used to sing "Kadam Kadam Badhaye Ja, Yea Zindagi hai Quam ki, Tu quam pe lutaye ja".
Today while addressing you from the ramparts of the same Fort and look back at the history with pride, I also want to speak to you about the future of the nation. When Gandhiji dreamt of India's future, he had said that the country will attain the real freedom only on the day when a Dalit would become the President of this country. This is our great fortune that today on the eve of golden jubilee of independence, we have been able to fulfil this dream of Gandhiji. In the person of Shri K.R. Narayanan we have been able to fulfil the dream of Gandhiji. Our President of whom the whole country is proud of, is from a very poor and downtrodden family and today he has endowed the Rashtrapati Bhawan with a new pride and respect. It is a matter of further happiness that the President has a very high place among the intellectuals of this country. This is a feather in the cap of our democracy that the backward sections of the society today are attaining their rightful place in society. All the countrymen today whether they are from minorities, scheduled castes or scheduled tribes -- are working unitedly for the development of the country.
Women constitute an important part of our society. Our religions and cultures put the women folk on a very high pedestal but I am constrained to say it, with a sense of sorrow and regret, that our politics, apparently, is hesitating in giving the women a place of equality. There was a revolution a few days back in the Panchayat Raj elections, about one lakh women rightfully became the leaders of Panchayats and Municipal Corporations. When I go to any city and meet the lady mayor or the lady sarpanch, I feel very happy and proud. In this I also see the future of India. These days we are trying and I want to reiterate the promise which I made in Parliament to give women their rightful place in the country's politics. We must remember that unless and until women are given their rightful place, no society or country can progress. Women should get the equal place in every field whether in the political, economic or social arena.