New Delhi, Jan 25 (IANS) Saying brutalisation of a woman was akin to wounding the "soul of our civilisation", President Pranab Mukherjee said gender equality for every Indian woman has to be a "national commitment" and the government has to work with civil society to fulfil this "national goal". .
"The time has now come to ensure gender equality for every Indian woman. We can neither evade nor abandon this national commitment, for the price of neglect will be high," the president said in his Republic Day address to the nation, his first after assuming the high office on July 25 last year. .
"Vested interests do not surrender easily. The civil society and the government must work together to fulfill this national goal," he said.
Talking about "the brutal gang-rape and murder" of a young woman in Delhi in December,Mukherjee said she "was symbol of all that new India strives to be", and has "left our hearts empty and our minds in turmoil".
"The grave tragedy has shattered complacency. We lost more than a valuable life; we lost a dream. If today young Indians feel outraged, can we blame our youth," he asked, referring to the large-scale protests against the crime in Delhi and other cities and towns across India.
Noting the sanctity of a woman is a directive principle of that larger edifice called Indian civilization, he said: "The Vedas say that there is more than one kind of mother: birth mother, a guru's wife, a king's wife, a priest's wife, she who nurses us, and our motherland."
"Mother is our protection from evil and oppression, our symbol of life and prosperity. When we brutalise a woman, we wound the soul of our civilization," said the president.
Stating it was "time for the nation to reset its moral compass", he said: "We must look deep into our conscience and find out where we have faltered."
"The solutions to problems have to be found through discussion and conciliation of views. People must believe that governance is an instrument for good and for that, we must ensure good governance," said the president.