New Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday urged people, particularly the youth, to remain non-violent when fighting for a cause and stressed on the need to "hold fast to constitutional methods" of achieving social and economic objectives.
His remarks come in the backdrop of protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), although he made no reference to them.
In his customary address to the nation on the eve of the 71st Republic Day, Kovind cited Mahatma Gandhi's gift of 'ahimsa' (non-violence) to humanity and said his talisman for deciding whether an act is right or wrong "applies to the functioning of our democracy".
Kovind said modern India comprises three organs — legislature, executive and judiciary — which are interlinked and interdependent.
"Yet, on ground, the people comprise the state. 'We the People' are the prime movers of the Republic. With us, the people of India, rests the real power to decide our collective future," he said.
"We have to take a stand to keep up the democratic values of equality and plurality," he said. "Mahatma Gandhi's principles continue to be important for nation-building. In fact, they have become more important."
Stressing that both the government and the opposition have "important roles to play", Kovind said "while giving expression to their political ideas, both must move forward in tandem to ensure that development of the country and welfare of its people are promoted consistently".
Recalling the importance of January 26, Kovind said even before 1947, this day was celebrated as 'Purna Swaraj Day' (complete independence day) from 1930 to 1947.
Kovind said although the Constitution gave rights to all the citizens of a free democratic nation, it also placed on them the responsibility to always adhere to the central tenets of the democracy — justice, liberty, equality and fraternity.
"It becomes easier for us to follow these constitutional ideals, if we keep in mind the life and values of the Father of our Nation. By doing so, we will be adding a meaningful dimension to our celebrations of 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji," he added.
Kovind said the third decade of the 21st century will be "the decade of the rise of New India and a new generation of Indians".
"More and more of those born in this century are participating in the national discourse. With the passage of time, we are gradually losing living links with our great freedom struggle, but there is no reason to worry about the continuity of the beliefs that guided it," he said.
Kovind said with advances in technology, the young minds of today are better informed and more confident.
"The next generation remains strongly committed to the core values of our nation. For our youth, the nation always comes first. With them, we are witnessing the emergence of a New India," he said.
Concluding his speech by quoting Babasaheb Ambedkar, Kovind said, "If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? The first thing in my judgment we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. These words have always lighted our path. These words will continue to show us the way ahead to new glories."
Speaking about security, Kovind said strong internal security is essential for the development of the country and so the government has taken concrete steps to strengthen the internal security system.
"I have nothing but unreserved praise for our armed forces, paramilitary and internal security forces. Their sacrifices to preserve the integrity and unity of our country present a saga of unparalleled courage and discipline," he said.
Kovind said as India and Indians march forward, "we remain committed to engaging the global community to build a secure and prosperous future for ourselves and for the entire humanity".
He mentioned the achievements of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and said they were making further progress in Mission Gaganyaan. "The nation excitedly looks forward to the Indian Human Spaceflight Programme gaining further momentum this year," he added.