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Mainstream, VOL XLV, No 32

Second Freedom Movement

Sunday 29 July 2007, by A P J Abdul Kalam


Before demitting office on July 25, President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam addressed in New Delhi on July 19 members of the India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC) on the occasion of its first anniversary. The following is the text of his address.

“When you speak, speak the truth
Perform what you promise.”

I am delighted to address the Members of India Islamic Cultural Centre (IICC), New Delhi as you complete one year of your formation with the aim of promoting national integration, amity among different communities of India and projecting Islamic culture and ethos. I am glad to know that you are proposing to organise a series of seven remembrance programmes in memory of the Heroes of 1857 as a part of the commemorative function to celebrate the 150th anniversary of our national movement for independence.

National Movement of Independence

THE year 1857 was a ‘turning point’ in the nineteenth century signalling the beginning of the end of many centuries of colonial rule. This resurgence of nationalism started as small streams of dissent with the tyranny of colonial rule. This began at 6 pm on Sunday, 10th May 1857, in Meerut, with what was called a mutiny against the foreign troops. In reality, it was a symptom of something far deeper and greater. Soon these small streams joined together to become a powerful flood as a nationwide movement to regain our lost freedom.

When I visualise the events of 1857, I get the real message about the Unity of India. How to feel the freedom and how to experience the freedom? Let me take you, dear friends, who have assembled here, and all the people of my country, to a mission. The mission is: how to project our freedom from within, and from any external interference to make India politically, economically and socially a strong nation.

Distinctive Profile of the Nation

I visualise the following distinctive profile for India by the year 2020 will have to emerge.

1. A Nation where the rural and urban divide has reduced to a thin line.

2. A Nation where there is an equitable distribution and adequate access to energy and quality water.

3. A Nation where agriculture, industry and service sector work together in symphony.

4. A Nation where education with value system is not denied to any meritorious candidates because of societal or economic discrimination.

5. A Nation which is the best destination for the most talented scholars, scientists, and investors.

6. A Nation where the best of health care is available to all.

7. A Nation where the governance is responsive, transparent and corruption free.

8. A Nation where poverty has been totally eradicated, illiteracy removed and crimes against women and children are absent and none in the society feels alienated.

9. A Nation that is prosperous, healthy, secure, peaceful and happy and continues with a sustainable growth path.

10. A Nation that is one of the best places to live in and is proud of its leadership.

Integrated Action for Developed India

TO achieve the distinctive profile of India, we have the mission of transforming India into a developed nation. We have identified five areas where India has a core competence for integrated action: (1) Agriculture and Food Processing; (2) Reliable and Quality Electric Power, Surface Transport and Infrastructure for all parts of the country; (3) Education and Healthcare; (4) Information and Communication Technology; (5) Self-reliance in Critical Technologies. These five areas are closely inter-related and if progressed in a coordinated way, will lead to food, economic and national security. The major mission is the development of infrastructure for bringing rural prosperity through Provision of Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA) through creation of three connectivities, namely, physical, electronic, knowledge leading to economic connectivity. The number of PURA for the whole country is estimated to be 7000. Educational institutions can participate in evolving the roadmap for development of PURAs in their region. I have come across such an example: in Periyar PURA at Vallam in Tamil Nadu, where students and teachers of Periyar Maniammai College of Engineering and Technology are working in the planning and development of a cluster of sixtyfive villages involving one lakh population. Economic development alone is not sufficient. Moral values coming out of the civilisational heritage are required to be built among the citizens from the teachings coming from multiple religions. I would like to illustrate through a few examples.

A Life Message from My Father

WHILE I am with you I would like to share an important message my father, Janab Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen, gave me a lesson when I was a young boy. What was that lesson? It was just after India got independence. At that time Panchayat Board elections took place at Rameswaram. My father was elected a Panchayat Board member and on the same day he was also elected the President of the Rameswaram Panchayat Board. Rameswaram island was a beautiful place with a 30,000 population. At that time they elected my father as the Panchayat Board President not because he belonged to a particular religion or a particular caste or spoke a particular language or for his economic status. He was elected only on the basis of his nobility of mind and for being a good human being. I would like to narrate what took place on the day he was elected the President of the Panchayat Board.

I was at that time studying in school. Those days we did not have electricity and we used to study under ration kerosene lamps. I was reading the lessons loudly and I heard a knock at the door. We never used to lock the door in Rameswaram in those days. Somebody opened the door, came in and asked me where my father was. I told him that father had gone for the evening Namaz. Then he said, I have brought something for him, can I keep it here? Since my father had gone for Namaz, I shouted for my mother to get her permission to receive the item. Since she was also on the Namaz there was no response. I asked the person to leave the item on the cot. After that I continued my studies.

I used to learn by reading aloud in my younger days. I was reading loud and fully concentrating on my studies. At that time my father came in and saw a tambalum kept on the cot. He asked me: “What is this? Who has given that?“ I told him: “Somebody came and has kept this for you.” He opened the cover of the tambalum and found there was a costly dhoti, angawastram, some fruits and some sweets and he could see the slip that the person had left behind. I was the youngest child of my father, he really loved me and I also loved him a lot. He was upset at the sight of the tambalum and gifts left by someone. That was the first time I saw him very angry and also that was the first time I got a thorough beating from him. I got frightened and started weeping. My mother embraced and consoled me. Then my father came and touched my shoulder lovingly with affection and advised me not to receive any gift without his permission. He quoted an Islamic Hadith, which states: “When the Almighty appoints a person to a position, he takes care of his provision. If a person takes anything beyond that, it is an illegal gain.” Then he told me that it is not a good habit. Gift is always accompanied by sme purpose and a gift is a dangerous thing. It is like touching a snake and getting the poison in turn. This lesson stands out always in my mind even when I am in my seventies. This incident taught me a very valuable lesson for my life. It is deeply embedded in my mind.

I would like also to mention the writings in Manu Smriti which states: “By Accepting gifts the divine light in the person gets extinguished.” Manu warns every individual against accepting gifts for the reason that it places the acceptor under an obligation in favour of the person who gave the gift and ultimately it results in making a person to do things which are not permitted according to law.
I am sharing this thought with all of you since no one should get carried away by any gift which comes with a purpose and through which one loses his personality greatly.

Mother’s Advice to Gandhiji

SECOND, I would like to tell you about the advice given to Mahatma Gandhi by his mother. Gandhiji says: “My mother had given an advice: ‘Son, in your entire life time if you can save or better someone’s life, your birth as a human being and your life is a success. You have the blessing of the Almighty God.’” This attitude of bettering someone’s life is an important message for every one of us.

Mother gives Principle of Truth

NOW, I will narrate to you a story surrounding the life of a great saint, Sheikh Abdul Qadir Al-Gilani, which happened about one thousand years ago. One day the child, Abdul Qadir, heard a cow saying, “What are you doing here in the grazing fields, it is not for this you have been created?” He ran back to his house feeling utterly terrified and climbed on to the roof of his house. From there he saw a large group of people returning from Arafat Mountain, thousands of miles away from his place in the neighbourhood of Mecca after performing Haj. Bewildered Abdul Qadir went to his mother and asked her permission to make a journey to Baghdad in order to pursue a career in knowledge. Mother understood the divine call and promptly gave the permission for him to go. She gave him 40 gold coins which was his share he inherited from his father. She stitched these 40 gold coins inside the lining of his coat and gave him permission to leave. When she stepped out of the door to bid him a farewell, she said: “Oh, my son! You are going! I have detached myself from you for the sake of Allah knowing that I shall not see your face again until the day of last judgement. But take one advice from me. My son, you always feel the truth, speak the truth and propagate the truth even when your life is at stake.”

Abdul Qadir travelled with a small caravan heading for Baghdad. During the journey, when the caravan was passing through the tough terrains, a group of robbers on horses suddenly attacked the caravan and started looting. None of them, however, took the slightest notice of Abdul Qadir, until one of the looters turned to him and said: “You are here poor boy! Do you have anything with you?” Abdul Qadir replied: “I have got 40 gold coins which are stitched by my mother in the lining of my coat underneath my armpit.” The looter smiled and thought that Abdul Qadir was just joking. He left him alone and moved elsewhere. When their leader came and the looters took this boy to their leader and said to him: “A poor boy claims that he is in possession of 40 gold coins. We looted everybody but we have not touched him because we hardly believed that he has got gold coins with him.” Then the leader put the same question but Abdul Qadir replied the same. Then the leader ripped through his coat and discovered that he indeed got 40 gold coins inside the lining of his coat.

The astonished leader asked Abdul Qadir what prompted him to make this confession. Abdul Qadir replied: “My mother made me promise to be always truthful even at the cost of my life. Here, it was a matter of only 40 gold coins. I promised her and never betrayed her trust, so I told the truth.” The looters started weeping and said, you have adhered to the advice of your great mother but we have been betraying the trust of our parents and the covenant of our Creator for many years. From now onwards, you would become our leader in our repentance and they all decided to give up robbery and from that day, became righteous persons. Here the world saw the birth of a great saint, Shiekh Abdul Qadir Al-Gilani, out of a message of truth a mother gave to her child.


TO achieve the goals of developed India, a swift and bold national movement is essential. In this movement, every citizen, every constituent of our democracy has to participate. What can be the profile of people’s participation in this develop-ment movement? The citizen’s participation can be in many important areas like reaching the unreached and to create awareness, feedback on service to the people, human resource development, entrepreneurship, home-makers contributing to societal upliftment, environment development, youth participation in political system with the focus on developed India. Yesterday, I was participating in the award function organised by Air India in partnership with Malayala Manorama. I asked each one of the award winners about his or her vision. I would like to share with you two typical responses. One from a teacher and the other from a student. The teacher said that my vision is to make each one of my students stand on their legs. That means empowering the students for life. The student said that his vision is to bridge the hearts of people. What a noble vision the young mind has visualised! I found each one of the participants has done a unique project in his or her region. There is a need for initiatives of this kind to spread through the length and breadth of the country. The Members of the India Islamic Cultural Centre can definitely play an important part in such societal transformation missions. It is most important to empower the youth, particularly the girl children, through quality education.

During my childhood (age 10) one experience deeply entered into me that I would like to share with you. Each day when I returned home from my school in the evening, my father would have gone to Namaz. And my mother would be performing Namaz and look angelic. After Thakbhir position, she will recite two suras from Holy Quran. One starts with Alhamdhu, and the other “Lakkum, Theenukum”. One day I asked my parents what is the meaning of Lakkum Theenukum? My mother in a graceful voice recited the sura “Lakkum Theenukum Valiyatheen” that is the end of the sura Alkhafeerun. My father said: “It means, everyone follows a path. He or she who decides the path is accountable for the actions.” My father who was Imam of the local mosque elaborated: “My son, I meet my friends quite often as you would have seen me with Pakshi Lakshmana Shastrigal and Rev Father Bodal.” Pakshi Lakshmana Shastrigal was a great Hindu devotee and the head priest of Rameswaram Siva Temple and Rev Father Bodal had built our island’s first church. In my childhood, I was indeed blessed to hear the discussion of the great three personalities. At least once a week they met and discussed on integration of thoughts from Holy Quran, Holy Bible and Bhagavat Gita. From the essence of their saying, I learnt, whatever religion you are, the path you select will lead you to the bliss, based on your good action.

Our country has had this advantage of integration of minds for thousands of years and we should continue to nurture this. You will all agree with me that the India Islamic Cultural Centre can definitely play an important role in promoting such a culture in all parts of the country.

While concluding, I would like to share with you one inspirational call from Hazrat Mohammad Sahib’s Hadeeth (peace be upon him).

“When you speak, speak the truth.
-Perform what you promise.
-Discharge your trust.
-Withhold your hand from striking and taking,
-That which is unlawful and bad.”
-Let us follow this path and lead a noble life.

My best wishes to all the Members of India Islamic Cultural Centre for success in your noble mission of promoting national integration.

My God bless you.

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