STATING THAT those who keep the country clean have the first right to chant Vande Mataram, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday asked if people who dirty the country have any right to the slogan. Addressing a students’ convention at Vigyan Bhawan —
titled ‘Young India, New India: A Resurgent Nation, from Sankalp to Siddhi’ — to mark the beginning of the 125th year of Swami Vivekananda’s address at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago on September 11, 1893, and the centenary celebrations of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay, Modi also said the 9/11 terror attack in the United States could have been averted if the world had remembered the message of peace and harmony associated with India’s 9/11.
“I get goosebumps every time I hear anyone chant ‘Vande Mataram’. What I am going to say now might hurt some people. Do we have the right to say ‘Vande Mataram’ if we choose to dirty our country? If anybody has a right over this nation, it is those who work for the cleanliness of the nation, and only they have the right to call Bharat Ma theirs,” he said, adding, “The sanitation and cleaning workers have the first right to say Vande Mataram.”
He said he would rather have people build toilets first before they build a temple, and only those who care to keep the country clean have the right to be called true nationalists. If Vivekananda was alive today, he would have stopped his countrymen from dirtying the Ganga, he said.
The Prime Minister urged students to make cleanliness an issue during student union elections held across universities.
“Before 2001, the world didn’t know the significance of 9/11. We only have ourselves to blame for it. Had we not forgotten the significance of our 9/11 (in 1893), there would have been no 9/11 in 2001,” he said in his address, which was often interrupted by applause and loud chants of ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ from the audience.
Urging the students to emulate Vivekananda and his ideals, Modi said, “Vivekananda had two sides to him. He would untiringly spread the message of India, but, also, never shy away from criticising its problems. At a time when puja path (religious worship) was a way of Indian life, he said that only rituals do not connect an individual to divinity… For him ‘Jan Seva was Prabhu Seva’ (To serve humanity is to serve God).”
“Shall we not fight our society’s evils then?” he asked. “Do we respect our women? I will bow a hundred times in front of anyone who sees the human being in a woman and treats her as an equal. We have no right to celebrate Swamiji’s speech if we cannot respect women,” he said.
“Swami Vivekananda would not only give sermons but he would translate his idea into action. He started the Ram Krishna Mission. He didn’t name it after himself. Baat choti hai lekin akalmand ko ishara kaafi hai (What I’ve said might sound unimportant but the message is clear),” he said.
The Prime Minister added that his government was doing its best to implement Vivekananda’s ideas, and flagship schemes and programmes like ‘Make in India’, ‘Skill India’, ‘Swachh Bharat’ were part of that effort.
Stressing the importance of the Skill India mission, the Prime Minister said his government had created a separate ministry for the purpose and added that the youth should be groomed in such a way that they don’t depend on anyone for employment. “They should be not be job seekers but job creators,” he said.
The Prime Minister also mentioned Bengal’s role in shaping India’s image abroad. “Both Rabindranath Tagore and Swami Viveknanda were sons of Bengal. After Tagore was given the Nobel Prize and Swami Vivekananda was lauded for his Chicago speech, India gained a significant place on the world map,” he said.
Modi said university campuses should encourage creativity. “We are not here to create robots,” he said, after a jocular reference to the celebration of ‘Rose Day’ on campus. Modi said he does not oppose such events.
Sharing the stage with the Prime Minister were Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma and Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore.