Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and All India Congress Committee (AICC) president Sonia Gandhi on Sunday invoked Swami Vivekanand’s views to exhort young India to battle religious fanaticism and intolerance, which they said was threatening the region. In what was seen as a veiled attack on the Sangh Parivar, Singh said Vivekanand’s true message was that true religion and true religiosity cannot be the basis of hatred and division.
Addressing a function to mark the 150th Birth Anniversary of Swami Vivekanand here, the Congress president reached out to the youth — who are are being wooed both by the BJP and the Aam Aadmi Party — talking about “high expectation and aspiration” for better education, better governance and good jobs and asserted “we should not and cannot fail them.”
“All over the world, populations are ageing but the profile of our nation remains young. The India of the 21st century is a known society with a young population — a population with high expectation and aspiration. They want to be educated better, they want to be governed better, they want to find employment that meets their aspirations, we should not and cannot fail them,” she said.
The Prime Minister and the Congress president stressed tolerance and respect for all religions. Reflecting Vivekanand’s views, Singh said “syncretic and pluralistic view of religion is one of the greatest contributions of Hinduism and of civilisations that took root in this ancient land of ours.” His comments assume significance as the RSS has always staked claim to Vivekanand’s legacy.
“His truly great message for us, which is of great relevance to our country and our sub-continent, was that true religion and true religiosity cannot be the basis of hatred and division, but of mutual respect and tolerance for the faiths and beliefs of all,” Singh said.
Pointing out religious fanaticism as a great threat, the Congress president, recalling Swami Vivekanand’s 1893 speech about about religious tolerance at World Parliament of Religions in Chicago, observed that his views are more relevant today.
“Swamiji’s words are all the more weighty today as religious fanaticism of all hues, threatens the peace of many nations and of our region. His ideas must be taken into the hearts and minds of our new generation of young Indians who will and must battle against fanaticism. Swamiji’s vision is clear. He teaches us not to fall pray to narrow mindedness and selfish interests,” she said.
She said all those who followed him “must rise above politics and heed his teachings of wisdom and tolerance.”