Unlike his last two Independence Day speeches, Prime Minister Narendra Modi used the ramparts of Red Fort not to make too many promises but to address two significant issues faced by the country – social disharmony and cross border terrorism.
The Red Fort, sometimes, has been a place for sour statements in the past too -– it has been used by his predecessors too to send strong messages to the western neighbour. On Monday, on the occasion of 70th Independence Day, Modi hit out at Pakistan in the strongest terms.
Modi has made several peace overtures and gestures of cooperation to Pakistan in the past two years including allowing Pakistani investigative agencies to probe the Pathankot attack and his surprise visit to Lahore to greet his counterpart on the latter’s birthday.
On Monday, however, he tried to change the discourse. Modi drew parallels between India that cried for the children who died in the Peshawar attack and Pakistan which has glorified terrorists and “celebrated” the killing of innocents.
For the second time in a week, he raked up the issue of PoK and Balochistan. Modi said today: “In the last few days, there have been talks of Gilgit, PoK and Balochistan. People from these places have expressed their gratitude and have thanked me. I am very grateful and thankful to them. I have never met them, they live far away, but the fact that they are appreciating me is a matter of respect for the people of India.” Last week, the Prime Minister, in his concluding remarks at the all-party meet on Jammu and Kashmir, had said: “The time has come when Pakistan shall have to answer to the world for the atrocities committed by it against people in Balochistan and PoK.”
In his 2015 Independence Day speech, Modi had made a string of promises like ending black money, corruption and construction of toilets for every school. In 2016, his thrust was on sending out a strong message against any kind of violence. “This country will never bend before violence. We have never tolerated violence, we will not tolerate nor succumb to terrorism and Maoism,” he said.
Urging the youth who have taken to the path of violence, in an apparent reference to the youth in Kashmir which has been witnessing unrest for the last month, he said: “To the youth who have taken up the gun, I urge them to return to their parents, shun violence. If we have to strengthen India’s democracy, we must shun violence and embrace humanity,” Modi said.
Another significant message in Modi’s speech was the message for unity and rising above caste, religious and class differences inside the country. Speaking at length on the social harmony, in the backdrop of increasing assaults on Dalits and Muslims by cow protection vigilante groups, the PM said social justice is key to empowering society.
Sounding like as a statesman, PM Modi seems to have tried to silence his critics who slammed his reluctance to come out strongly against Gau Rakshaks. Although he had spoken on the violence against Dalit by cautioning people against those “running shops” and indulging “anti social activities” in the name of cow protection, the Opposition has been continuing its criticism saying it was the election prospects of the BJP in Uttar Pradesh that made him speak out. His attack had also made his ideological parent RSS unhappy with VHP leader Pravin Togadia terming it as an “insult to gau mata and the Hindus.”
In this Independence Day address, the PM sent out a clear message. “We have to fight against social evils… rise above caste, class and other differences,” he said. Citing the messages of Mahatma Gandhi, Hindu philosopher Ramanuja as well as other saints and sages of India, he urged the people to strive towards working above differences. “A strong India cannot be built without a strong society. A strong society cannot be built without social justice- social justice is the key to empower society,” he said.
On governance, a subject he emphasised in his first two Independence Day speeches, Modi said: “We will not ignore obstacles but confront them.” The PM said, the governments should be responsible and accountable. Reform, perform and transform should be the mantra, he said. Listing out his government’s achievements, the PM mentioned about 4 crore LPG connections, 70 crore Aadhaar links and said his government wants to distribute 77 crore more LED bulbs for the environment protection. And that his focus is on taking India “swarajya (self-governance) to surajya (good governance).