Unveiling of Statue of Vivekananda at Bangalore
Speech by Shri L.K. Advani delivered on the National Youth Day (Swami Vivekananda Jayanti) after unveiling the statue of Swami Vivekananda at Sri Ramakrishna Square, Bull Temple Road, Basavanagudi
Let’s Empower Young India to Build Stronger India
Today is the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. We joyously observe it as National Youth Day. It is a matter of privilege for me to be invited today to unveil this majestic statue of Swamiji at Ramakrishna Math in Bangalore. It is good to see both the incumbent Chief Minister of Karnataka, Shri B.S. Yeddyurappa, and the former Chief Minister, Shri S.M. Krishna one belonging to the BJP and the other to the Congress present on this occasion. All of us should be one in honouring the heroes, martyrs and great personalities of India, transcending our political and ideological affiliations.
Swami Vivekananda was a luminous star that cast its radiant light at a time when India was passing through one of its gloomiest nights. The defeat in the First War of Independence of 1857, and the bloody suppression that accompanied it, had created despair and despondency among the people. It even generated an inferiority complex in a section of the population, newly educated in English, that the British were ruling India because they were a superior race and had a superior culture. Colonialism of the mind is always the worst form of colonialism. India’s glorious past was being derided, her spiritual heritage and cultural mores were being denigrated, and many Indians had begun to accept that “civilizing” this ancient civilization was a “White Man’s Burden”.
It was at such a grim time that Swami Vivekananda roared like a lion. He awakened Indians from their slumber. He injected patriotism and national pride into the veins of our people. He ignited young minds with words like the ones below:
• "Brothers and sisters, the long night is at last drawing to a close. Miseries and sorrows are disappearing. Ours is a sacred country. She is gradually waking up, thanks to the fresh breeze all around. Her might no one can overcome."
• "Are you prepared for all sacrifices for the sake of our motherland? If you are, then you can rid the land of poverty and ignorance. Do you know that millions of our countrymen are starving and miserable? Do you feel for them? Do you so much as shed a tear for them?"
• "Have you the courage to face any hurdles, however formidable? Have you the determination to pursue your goal, even if those near and dear to you oppose you? You can be free men only if you have confidence in yourselves. You should develop a strong physique. You should shape your mind through study and mediation. Only then will victory be yours."
• "I loved my motherland dearly before I went to America and England. After my return, every particle of the dust of this land seems sacred to me."
As a student in Karachi, where I spent the first twenty years of my life, and as a young swayamsevak of the RSS, which I joined at the age of 14, I was myself deeply influenced by the thoughts of Swami Vivekananda. The influence was all the greater because it was reinforced by one of his greatest disciples, Swami Ranganathananda, who was then the head of the Ramakrishna Mission in Karachi. I used to attend Swami Ranganathananda’s weekly discourses on the Bhagawad Gita, which he would interpret from the perspective of the teachings of Swami Vivekananda.
Vivekananda was not a political personality. He never took part in any political activity associated with India’s Freedom Movement. Nevertheless, he became one of the greatest inspirers of the movement because he re-energised the spirit of nationalism with the mighty force of his ideas and idealism. Let me recall here the words of Swamiji, when he returned to India in 1897 after his hugely successful tour of Europe and America, during which he also delivered his historic address to the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893. His ship landed in Madras, where he was accorded a rousing welcome. In his reply, he said something prophetic:
For the next fifty years … let all other vain gods disappear for the time from our minds. This is the only god that is awake, India, our own race… These are all our gods — men and animals; and the first gods we have to worship are our own countrymen.
Swamiji had given this clarion call ‘for the next fifty years’ in 1897. Exactly fifty years later, India won freedom from colonial rule.
Vivekananda captured the imagination of Indians, belonging to both pre- and post-Independence generations, because he was unlike most traditional spiritual leaders of India. Although he was proud of India’s past, he was not blind to the ills that had crept into our society. He did not mince words in exhorting his people: "You rejoice that you belong to the race of the great sages. But until those who belong to the upper classes help to uplift the downtrodden, and until exploitation ends, India will only be a grave. May Mother India step forth anew from the humble dwelling of the peasant! May she appear in the hut of the fisherman! May she step forth from the cottages of the cobbler and the sweeper! May she become manifest in godowns and factories! May the song of New India echo and reverberate amidst mountains and in forests and valleys!"
Swamiji was a Hindu monk who presented the true face of Sanatana Dharma both to Indians and to people abroad. Although he exhorted Hindus to be proud of India’s spiritual heritage, he respected all other faiths and never hesitated to extol their good aspects. His writings and speeches, especially his celebrated speech at the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893, have a universal appeal. With their emphasis on tolerance, harmony and mutual assimilation, they provide the right guidance to today’s world, which is threatened by the ideologies of exclusivism, extremism, terrorism and militarism.
Swamiji’s ideas speak to the modern mind because he was very modern in his outlook. Always open to new ideas, he deeply understood the power of the revolutionary advances in industry, science and technology for bringing about India’s renaissance. He enthusiastically blessed Jamshedji Tata’s idea of setting up an indigenous steel plant in mineral-rich eastern India and the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore. He actively campaigned for the establishment of IISc by sending his worthy disciple Sister Nivedita and three others to England to meet British authorities.
Swamiji urged the youth to be full of faith but free of fear. While he emphasized spiritual strength, he exhorted them not to neglect physical, mental and other strengths in life. He said, “You will be nearer to God through football than through the study of the Gita…You will understand the Gita better with your biceps, if your muscles are a little stronger.” How relevant these words are to our students and youth even today!
Like many heroic figures in history, Vivekananda died young. He was only 39 when he passed away in 1902.
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Friends, India today is a young country. We have the youngest population in the world today. Our children and our young men and women are our richest resource. They are also the brightest sources of hope for India’s future. I was recently reading Bangalore-based Nandan Nilekani’s book Imagining India : Ideas for the New Century, in which he describes the tremendous “Demographic Advantage” that our country enjoys. But he also cautions that this potential demographic resource can be harnessed only by empowering our children and youth with good education and productive skills.
Today, on the occasion of National Youth Day, I would like to present five ideas for empowering Young Indians so that they can build a stronger, more prosperous and more secure India. If elected, a future NDA Government at the Centre would pursue these ideas vigorously with appropriate policies and programmes.
EDUCATION FOR MAN-MAKING AND NATION-BUILDING: We have seen how quality education has enriched a small part of India’s demographic resource. Our well-educated and highly talented young professionals have scripted many success stories, many of them in Bangalore itself. These young achievers have made India proud, and raised India’s prestige globally. But imagine how much more India would accomplish when every young Indian is similarly empowered with good education. And by good education I refer to what Swami Vivekananda described it as: Education for Man-Making and Nation-Building. I ¾believe that it is our moral duty to ensure that every Indian child grows to her or¾irrespective of caste, religion, class or language his fullest potential.
PHYSICAL, MENTAL AND SPIRITUAL HEALTH: Health is the foundation and a pre-requisite for happiness and progress. We should revolutionise the healthcare system in India by ensuring that the basic needs of every citizen are taken care of. Facilities for sports, recreation, adventure, yoga, meditation and nutrition will have to be expanded manifold. Promotion of excellence in sports must be made a national campaign. After all, Sachin Tendulkar, Vishwanathan Anand, Sania Mirza and Abhinav Bindra are popular not only because of their individual achievements. Rather, it is because their achievements make every Indian proud. We should have hundreds of them in the years to come. Similarly, the limitless cultural and artistic talent among our youth should receive adequate opportunities to show their class on the national and international stage. All this will require a massive rejuvenation of governmental and non-governmental institutions. To begin with, we should create sports facilities in every school, a sports stadium in every taluka, and a youth hostel in every district.
EMPLOYMENT-INTENSIVE ECONOMIC GROWTH: Today, when job losses have become widespread due to economic recession, the greatest concern of young Indians is employment. Although India has achieved relatively higher rates of GDP growth in the post-liberalisation era, this growth has not resulted in a concomitant increase in employment opportunities. This can lead to ruinous consequences. Our economic policy must therefore ensure productive employment to every able-bodied individual.
PROMOTION OF PATRIOTISM AND NATIONAL VALUES: I have always believed that young people are innately patriotic and idealistic. Their patriotism and idealism can be and should be further nurtured by enabling them to participate in activities that make them more knowledgeable about India’s history, culture, our diverse spiritual and scientific heritage, and our past and contemporary achievements. For this, it is necessary to create immensely more opportunities for our students, especially those belonging to disadvantaged backgrounds, to travel across the country. For example, places like the Vivekananda Rock Memorial in Kanyakumari should become mandatory destinations for school excursions. (I played a small role in the establishment of this Memorial in 1970, by assisting Eknathji Ranade, who was the mastermind of this project.) The library movement has to be vastly expanded by promoting good literature. And the power of the Internet must be fully harnessed to promote national integration.
EK KAAM DESH KE NAAM - PROMOTION OF VOLUNTEERISM AMONG THE YOUTH: Like patriotism, the spirit of voluntary service comes naturally in young age. This needs to be nurtured and directed to accomplish big and challenging tasks in nation-building. Is it not possible, by revamping programmes like NCC and NSS, to channelise the enormous energy of our students and youth to achieve goals such as Swachcha Bharat (Clean India), Swastha Bharat (Healthy India), Saakshar Bharat (Literate and Educated India), andSurakshit Bharat (Secure India)? Is it not possible, for example, to mobilize all the resources of the nation – the voluntary service of the youth, the blessings and participation of religious leaders, and the financial, administrative and policy resources of the central and state governments – to undertake a massive nationwide campaign to clean up our holy rivers, the places of pilgrimage, and our own cities and towns, on a sustainable basis? Is it not possible to revamp and vastly expand the scope of NCC and NSS in our schools and colleges so that every student gets to serve the nation in some ways? It is possible. Indeed, it is necessary.
As a first step, even before a comprehensive plan is drawn up by the future Government, I appeal to my young friends to take up in their own neighbourhoods, educational institutions or workplaces a national service campaign that may be called EK KAAM DESH KE NAAM. As a matter of fact, tens of thousands of young people are already engaged in such voluntary activities – tree plantation, blood donation, literacy drive, tuitions for poor students, care of the elderly, promotion of sports, arts and culture, etc. I urge them to write to me about their activities and these shall be publicized on my website www.lkadvani.in.
As I said, these will be the commitments of a future NDA Government. To aim at anything less would not be a befitting commemoration of Swami Vivekananda’s Jayanti.