Midnapore: Expressing anguish over recent communal violence, President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday said religion should never become an instrument for propagation of hatred and violence against believers of different faiths.
Delivering the 7th Vidyasagar Memorial Lecture at the Vidyasagar University here, he termed the incidents of gangrapes and killing of women and children in the recent communal clashes as a "sad spectacle" and asserted that "no society which ill-treats women and girl children can consider itself civilised".
"At a time when our country is witnessing the sad spectacle of people including women and children being killed in communal clashes, the life of Pandit Vidyasagar teaches us that religion should never become an instrument for propagation of hatred and violence against believers of different faiths," the President said.
In a strong message against violence and discrimination faced by women, he said that "simple solutions" like angry criticism of the government when such incidents occur would not lead to a solution to the problem and stressed on the need to introspect "on the sad decline in our moral values."
There was an "urgent need for new and widespread public mobilisation aimed at gender sensitisation. We need to introspect on the sad decline in our moral values and reflect on how we can reset our moral compass," he said.
He asked the teaching community to inculcate among students the values of sincerity of purpose, honesty, integrity and respect for life and women, for which Vidyasagar stood for.
"I am sorry to say that our society is lacking now in this regard (respecting women). This situation cannot be changed unless the society asserts itself," he said, adding that legislations for protection of women would become effective only if they were supported by efficient enforcement mechanisms.
He sought pro-active intervention in these areas by the society at large, as only government efforts and legislations alone cannot eliminate these evils.
"Reforms in police and judiciary need to be taken up on a continuing basis and in all earnest so that women get fair and prompt justice. These measures should be further backed by efforts aimed at empowerment of women and improvement of their health, education and employment opportunities," he said.
Recalling the pivotal role played by Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in spearheading movements for remarriage of widows, against child marriage, abolition of polygamy and in the sphere of modern education, Mukherjee said the practices like female foeticide were "totally abhorrent and should be brought to an immediate end.
"Even today, there are about 30 million widows in India who often face discrimination and neglect."
Maintaining that education has to play a major role in India`s development in the world arena, Mukherjee said while on one side, there was tremendous expansion of educational infrastructure since the days of Vidyasagar, "I fail to understand why not a single Indian educational institutions today finds a place among top 200 universities".
"There is no dearth of talent, talented teachers and talented students. During British days, a scientist working out of a Kolkata laboratory obtained the Nobel Prize, It was CV Raman, Then, from Kolkata, Chandigarh and Madras, we have Amartya Sen, Hargobind Khurana and Chandrashekhar. They were Indian graduates or post-graduates," he said, adding "something is lacking in our education system".
Earlier, the President also inaugurated the new building of a historic 132-year old Ghatal Vidyasagar School in East Medinipur which was set up with the help of Vidyasagar near his native village of Birsingha.
Addressing the students there, the President said the erstwhile British rulers had introduced education "primarily to create bureaucrats and babus to run their show. However, the spread of modern education and ideas led people like Raja Rammohan Roy and Vidyasagar to start the renaissance in Bengal".
Pointing to the growing youth population in India, he said the country would have the world`s largest workforce within a decade. "We have to make them educationally sound and socially sensitive."
Observing that the Indian society today faced "moral turbulence", Mukherjee said "to arrest the erosion of values, we have to mould the minds of our youth and inculcate in them the indispensable civilisational values".
These values, he said, were love for motherland, performance of duty, compassion for all, tolerance for pluralism, respect for women, honesty in life, self-restraint in conduct, responsibility in action and discipline.