The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh addressed the Babu Jagjivan Ram Centenary Function at New Delhi today.Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s remarks on the occasion: “ Babu Jagjivan Ramji was one of the tallest leaders of post-Independence India. His life symbolizes the liberation and progress of dalits in democratic India. I feel proud to pay tribute to his stellar contribution to our nation’s development and the empowerment of our people on this auspicious occasion.Babuji’s life and work continue to inspire us even today. He was a true nationalist, a true secular minded person, a great administrator and, above all, a great son of Mother India. A grateful nation derives inspiration from his remarkable record of public service. The birth centenary celebrations constituted an important effort to rediscover and reinterpret his ideas and his contributions to the processes of nation building. They have helped perpetuate his memory and make a new generation of Indians understand his exceptional contribution to our nation building processes.I was going through the catalogue of activities organized to commemorate this event. It is heartening to note that many leading personalities participated in them and threw light on the many splendoured personality of Babuji. As a young man, he participated in the struggle for independence and commanded the attention and admiration of none less than Mahatma Gandhi himself. He faced social discrimination and economic hardships and yet remained firm in overcoming these challenges, even from his school days. No wonder that Babuji became the icon for all those who fought for social justice which was at the core of our freedom struggle. The celebration of his birth centenary is, therefore, a celebration of the world view which he so fearlessly defended throughout his life.
History always recalls with respect those who take a firm stand in defence of what they believe in. Babu Jagjivan Ramji was one such revered leader whose legacy of service to the nation and commitment to the welfare of the downtrodden will inspire generations to come.
His courage was first made evident in 1935 when he introduced a Resolution in a session of the Hindu Mahasabha demanding opening of temples, drinking water wells, private schools, to dalits. Babuji made it clear that he would withdraw from the Sabha unless his Resolution was approved. He eventually succeeded in spite of the opposition from conservative elements led by Shankaracharya of Puri. He was hailed for that courageous stand for equality and justice for the suppressed sections of humanity.
His liberal principles and his commitment to democratic values were clearly demonstrated when he opposed separate electorates for dalits. He wanted dalits to be liberated, not isolated. In taking such a view he shared the larger vision of social unity outlined by Mahatma Gandhi. Eventually those who spearheaded the movement for separate electorate were convinced of the robust reasoning against their proposal and concurred with Gandhiji.
Babuji was a distinguished parliamentarian, an outstanding member of the Cabinets of Panditji, Shastriji, Indiraji and Morarjibhai, and a highly regarded administrator. Both in the fight against poverty and hunger and the fight against external aggression he was looked upon to provide firm and determined leadership. And what a leadership the nation received from him! It was truly exceptional in every sense of the term.
I understand that several activities were organized to discuss these issues threadbare. I read in the press a brilliant disposition of Professor M.S.Swaminathan who wrote about Babuji’s contribution to the green revolution. It testifies to the dynamic leadership of Babuji in modernization of agriculture and spectacularly increasing our productivity.
Much has been said and written about his role as the Defence Minister of our country in facing aggression from across the border. He was truly the man of the moment at the time of the liberation of Bangladesh. Standing next to Indiraji, he truly inspired our people and our jawans.
I am so glad that the activities associated with the celebrations of Babuji’s birth centenary have helped our people revisit his life and work. I am confident that his birth centenary celebrations will inspire and motivate all of us to work for social justice and national development in the manner Babu Jagjivan Ram did throughout his life.”