From the Red Fort: Nehru's Independence Day Speech, 1962

Brothers, Sisters, and Children,

The children seated here would have no recollection ofthe time when India was not free. The youth oftoday must have been small children then. Fifteen years have gone by since a new age started in our country. Today is the anniversary of our independence and we are assembled here at the Red Fort to celebrate it. The hoisting of the tricolour at the Red Fort was the first symbol of the arrival of independence. So I congratulate all of you, rather all of us, for these fifteen years.

This is a good opportunity to take stock of our achievements and failures in the last fifteen years. As you are aware, we have had to face great hardships and difficulties during these years, and even now we are beset with problems. In spite of all that, we have managed to achieve a great deal and I am sure we will continue to do so with the cooperation of the people.

Independence was not brought about merely through some changes at the top. It was the result ofa great upheaval among millions ofpeople in India which shook the nation to its core. The process started during the freedom struggle will not be over until it reaches its logical conclusion. That means raising the standard of living of India’s millions and bringing about equality and equal opportunities for everyone. Our goal is to reduce the disparity between the haves and the have-nots and establish a socialist pattern of society. We want to get rid of the caste system. We have had to face tremendous difficulties in our efforts to bring this about. Do you remember the terrible events which shook the nation in the aftermath of Partition? Anyhow, we faced them and brought the situation under control.

Even now, there are great problems before us and some of them are quite troublesome. For instance, we must be vigilant on our borders because there are forces with evil intention operating there. A nation which wants to hold on to its independence must remain vigilant and watchful. You are aware that our foreign policy has been based right from the start on principles of peace and non-violence. We have tried to maintain friendly relations with all the countries and have succeeded to a very large extent. But unfortunately our neighbours are always hostile and often talk ofwar. We must not panic but remain vigilant and strong enough to face any eventuality. That is the only way to face a problem.

How can we become strong as a nation? It is necessary to have strong army. But ultimately it is on the people that the defence of a nation depends, on their hard work, unity and determination. Everyone in the country must do his duty honestly, work hard in his own chosen profession, and foster unity. Then no power in the world can conquer them. India’s story has always been one of disunity and internecine feuds. We tend to argue about petty things. Not that there is any harm in debates or arguments. But we must always bear in mind that disunity is traitorous to the country. It weakens the nation and endangers our hard-won freedom.

So I want to remind you on this day particularly about the events which led to our getting independence and the struggle for freedom which we waged under the leadership ofMahatma Gandhi. He led us step by step, and though we often stumbled and fell, we derived courage from him. This is how he moulded the people in those days and organized the nation into a strong and united force, imbued the people with a national spirit and discipline. He challenged the might of a great empire by peaceful, non-violent methods and ultimately succeeded in winning freedom for India. We must bear all this in mind because it infuses spirit and courage into us and prepares us to face difficulties.

Nowadays even small hardships seem unbearable to us. It is obvious that nobody must have to bear hardships. But we cannot build the edifice of a new India without shouldering some burden. We must not have grudges and keep complaining. The problems we are facing are small ones. For instance, suppose if some real danger threatened our freedom on our borders, what hardships we would have to put up with. I hope that it will not happen. But we are prepared to face any danger. We must not fritter away our energies in petty matters. We must rise above them and look ahead to larger issues and build a strong nation based on unity. There are people belonging to various religions in India, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis, etc. But you must remember that everyone is equal and the man who raises his voice against this principle betrays India and weakens Indian nationalism. All of us are citizens of one country and every one of us is a beloved son or daughter of India. All of us belong to one large family [Applause]. Communalism and the caste system weaken the country.

We are living in a new age. Some of you might have observed two new stars in the firmament at night. I am using the words stars, but actually they are two men from the Soviet Union who are orbiting our planet, hundreds of miles away from earth.59 Earlier the Americans did such a thing. We are living in a revolutionary world where everything is changing rapidly. New forces are making their appearance and unless we understand them and utilize them to our own advantage, we will become backward while the world goes ahead. Therefore, we must realize how essential it is to change and progress in order to fit in with the modem world. We must advance in the field of science, work hard and adopt new techniques ofproduction. We must industrialize the country and improve agricultural production. Agriculture is the backbone ofthe country. But it is essential to adopt new techniques befitting the modem world. We must not stick to outdated ploughs and tools when the world has advanced so much. We must change with the changing times.

We have adopted the Panchayati Raj system and all kinds ofrevolutionary changes are taking place which are transforming the mral areas. The important thing is not the huge buildings and new factories which are coming up everywhere but the way the Indian farmer is gradually changing. Education is spreading and a time will soon come when there will not be a single child in the country who does not have the opportunity of going to school.

Before independence, the average life expectancy in India was thirty-two years. Now it has risen to fifty in spite ofthe rapid increase in population. What does that imply? It does not mean that everyone lives only up to fifty. That is the average. It means that in spite ofthe increasing population, the health of the people is improving because they are better fed than before. Generally speaking, people do not starve any more except perhaps in rare cases. The health of the nation is improving. It is extremely important for the people to have enough to eat, clothes to wear, houses to live in, health care, education facilities and the means of earning a livelihood. It is our goal to provide these.

We are often engrossed in our petty day-to-day difficulties and problems. But we must always remember the lessons that we learnt under Gandhiji’s leadership during the freedom struggle. Gandhiji infused a new spark of life in us and we followed the path that he showed us. Though we were weak and cowardly, by following the path shown by him we developed some courage. He made us into soldiers and we have to continue on the path shown by him. Merely wearing the military uniform does not make one a soldier. Those who take up a task and discharge it faithfully are soldiers. We have to show this path to the entire country, including the children. Look at our Army. There are people of all religions in it and there is no distinction of caste or religion. Everyone is equal and everyone has equal rights. We have to build our country in this way.

Today, the anniversary of our independence, is an auspicious day. But it is auspicious for another reason too. Today is Raksha Bandhan. What does this festival stand for? [Applause]. The rakhi is the symbol of loyalty. Brothers pledge to protect their sisters on this day. I want you to mentally tie a rakhi on Bharat Mata today. [Applause]. You must renew your pledge once again to serve India and protect her no matter what happens. That does not mean that each one must pull in different directions. It implies that we must maintain unity and discipline, not take undue advantage of one another, cooperate with and help one another, and in this way build a strong nation which nobody can touch. So on the occasion of this anniversary of our independence and Raksha Bandhan, when all of us are assembled here at this sacred place, where we had unfurled the tricolor for the first time on 15th August fifteen years ago as a symbol of our freedom,60 let us pledge once again that no matter what happens, we will not do anything to stain India’s honour or cause harm to her but always to serve her. What does serving the country mean? India is not a mere image but we have an image of India in our hearts. Service to India is service of her people. We cannot sit by ourselves in some isolated spot and hope to serve India.

We must serve the people of India, particularly the downtrodden sections of society and help them to achieve a better standard of living. We must pledge to do this and try to work honestly and with sincerity to fulfill our pledge, no matter which profession we are in. Apart from whatever we do in our day-today living, we must remember that it is our duty also to serve the people of India, our neighbours and friends, irrespective of their religion and castes. All Indians are our brothers no matter which religion they follow. We are part of a large family. I want you to do this and not get bogged down in petty problems and arguments. Everyone is entitled to different opinions and there must be no restriction on free thinking. But there is no room for differences of opinion when it comes to serving the country or protecting and defending her freedom. This is the duty of every single citizen of India. Therefore, we must make a firm determination today and do our mite to serve the country. Every little bit will add up to a great deal and we will be able to build the edifice of a new India and maintain her freedom.

Jai Hind!

Please say Jai Hind three times.

Jai Hind! Jai Hind! Jai Hind!

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