New Delhi: Voicing her shock and pain over unabated incidents of abuse and molestation of women, Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday made a strong plea for a change in mindset to ensure a safe environment for them.
Laying the foundation stone for a girls` hostel on the Jamia Milia Islamia University campus, Gandhi said that the change will come from our homes, schools and universities.
"We have been shocked by the violence that girls and women encounter on the streets and even in their homes. Of course, this is not universal, but it is there widespread.
"And It pains me that as a society, we have failed to counter it and create a secure environment where girls and women can live and flourish without constantly having to live in fear of abuse and molestation," Gandhi said.
While the government, Parliament and institutions like the police have to discharge their role, society at large also needed to change its mindset, the UPA chairperson said.
"And we must all become all the more proactive. There can be no better points for this change than within our own families, our schools and universities," Gandhi said.
She said that a women`s hostel will also create a greater sense of security for female students and lauded the institution for empowering women and helping them in fulfilling their dreams so that they can find a "productive, secure and self-confident place" in society.
"Nothing can achieve this better than a sound modern education. You have today taken a big step towards swelling the rank of women who aspire, enabling them who are privileged to be students and scholars here, to break through the barriers that the society force upon them to soar new heights and make their families and country proud," Gandhi said.
Striking an instant rapport with the students, Gandhi said in a lighter vein that she was delighted to be there for another reason that "I can bunk my classes" besides getting an opportunity to be with them.
Gandhi lauded the long standing commitment of the university to the education of women recalling that its four hostels are named after four remarkable women.
She also expressed happiness over the university`s decision to name a ground in the university after cricketer late Mansoor Ali Khan Pataudi, whom she described as "arguably India`s greatest captain and without doubt one of the most charismatic sportspersons".
"Now that you are declared a minority institution, you have an even greater opportunity to serve the cause of the community and other underprivilleged sections of the society...This is a very big challenge," Gandhi said.
She also chose the occassion to flag the old ties the institution had with her families and the appreciation India`s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru had for it.
Jamia Millia Islamia Vice Chancellor Najeeb Jung profusely thanked Gandhi for "vigoroulsy" pursuing with the government for the construction of the girls`hostel, which he said that about which he had told Gandhi eight months back during a chance conversation.
The Vice Chancellor also lauded Gandhi for her left of the centre tilt to policies at a time when "market forces" rule the roost.