New Delhi,18 Apr:The Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has released the commemorative coin to mark the 150th Anniversary of the First War of Independence in New Delhi today. Addressing on the occasion Prime Minister said that 1857 was a call to arms of a nation re-born. It was a remarkably secular mobilization of people, with obvious and understandable religious symbolism.It created a new bonding between the people of India irrespective of creed, community, caste, religion or region, he added. Finance Minister, Shri P.Chidambram, Minister of Tourism and Culture, Smt. Ambika Soni, Home Minister, Shri Shivraj Patil, Panchayati Raj Minister, Shri Mani Shankar Aiyar and other dignitaries were present on the occasion. Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s remarks on the occasion:“The people of our country marked the 150th anniversary of the First War of Indian Independence in 1857 with great enthusiasm and a deep sense of patriotism. We had popular rallies and academic seminars. We brought alive the heroism of those fateful days at Lal Qila. We commemorated in great dignity in the Central Hall of Parliament the historic role played by ordinary men and women in re-awakening a dormant nation. I compliment all those who were associated with the various functions organized to commemorate “San Sattavan”.
Today, I am happy that our Government is issuing these commemorative coins. 1857 was a call to arms of a nation re-born. It was a remarkably secular mobilization of people, with obvious and understandable religious symbolism. It laid the foundation of a new nation defined by a common and composite culture, a shared history and a shared destiny. It was a popular uprising against foreign rule that re-ignited our people’s pride in our civilisational inheritance. It overwhelmed those against whom it was organised and its impact merited serious attention around the world. Karl Marx wrote about it with interest, as did Benjamin Disraeli and so many scholars and poets.
We know from the life of Mahatma Gandhi and most of the leaders of our national movement that what was then called the “Sepoy Mutiny” inspired them. It created a new awakening in their minds and their love for a free India knew no bounds. It created a new bonding between the people of India irrespective of creed, community, caste, religion or region.
The unity cutting across diverse faiths and linguistic and regional groups remained the distinguishing feature of their struggle. They stressed on our shared history and common destiny. The way the unity of our people was spontaneously demonstrated in that struggle underlined their unbreakable bond cutting across social and economic differences. It was based on the strength of princes and peasants, aristocrats and artisans and intellectuals and ordinary people. It addressed the issues of deprivation and exclusion caused due to colonial rule. It established that freedom and self-rule alone can put an end to it. The enduring ethos of religious tolerance subordinated their denominational identity to the larger Indian identity. It is indeed heartening that a struggle by soldiers encompassed in its scope the larger vision of unity and understanding of our people.
Today, when we recall the patriotism and heroism of the people of that time, we must remember that they stood as one, and fought as one. As Indians. It was a great demonstration of the idea of “unity in diversity”. Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs – people of different religious persuasions came together to fight foreign rule. As one of the great leaders of our national movement, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, observed:
“Common life had developed among Hindus and Muslims a sense of brotherhood and sympathy…That is why the struggle of 1857 took a national and racial but not a communal turn. In the fight for freedom, Hindus and Muslims stood together shoulder to shoulder. This feeling of unity was found not only in the army but also among the civil population. There is no record of a single incident of conflict or clash on a religious basis even though there are instances where British officers tried to weaken the Indian camp by stressing such differences. India faced the trial of 1857 as a united community.''
An important feature of that great struggle was the heroic participation of the indomitable Rani of Jhansi, Lakshmi Bai and, even before her, the heroism of Rani Chennamma. They inspired men and women and have left behind a legacy of women’s participation in public life that continues to inspire our women even today. The spirit and courage they demonstrated in the battlefield needs to be replicated in all spheres of life by our women today – in the political, social, cultural and economic arena.
I stand here, in all humility, to pay homage to the martyrs of 1857. We must all work together to ensure that their sacrifices were not in vain. Our freedom fighters sacrificed their lives because they wanted for every Indian a life of dignity, a life free from want, free from the ancient scourge of poverty, ignorance and disease.
It is our responsibility to build a new prosperous India that is inclusive as well as caring. It is our responsibility to build an India marked by harmony between communities, social justice and the equality of all, irrespective of religion, region, language or caste. It is by doing so, that we will be able to pay true homage to those who sacrificed their lives in the cause of our freedom.
I compliment all those associated with this initiative today. I am sure your effort to light yet another candle will keep alive the bright lamp of patriotism in our country.”