Gangrape left our hearts empty: President

Pranab Mukherjee

Expressing his deep anguish over the gangrape and murder of the 23-year-old paramedical student in the capital last month, President Pranab Mukherjee Friday used his maiden address to the nation on the eve of Republic Day to underline the need to reaffirm the country's commitment to gender equality.

Mukherjee also laid stress on the obligation to arrest falling standards in politics and governance and said elected representatives must gain the confidence of the people. Besides, he subtly warned Pakistan not to take India's hand of friendship for granted.

Virtually justifying the anger in the country over the Delhi gangrape, Mukherjee said the gruesome crime had "left our hearts empty and our minds in turmoil". "If today young Indians feel outraged, can we blame our youth?" he asked, adding that the incident was an assault on womanhood. "The sanctity of a woman is a directive principle of the larger edifice called Indian civilisation...When we brutalise a woman, we wound the soul of our civilisation," he said, and added that the time had come to ensure gender equality for every Indian woman.

Referring to the killing of two Indian soldiers on the Line of Control this month, Mukherjee maintained that sponsorship of terrorism through non-state actors is a matter of concern. "We believe in peace on the border and are always ready to offer a hand in the hope of friendship. But this hand should not be taken for granted," he said.

Making a compelling case for the country to immediately engage in course correction, the president reflected on the imperative to place high premium on moral values. "It is time for the nation to reset its moral compass. Nothing should be allowed to spur cynicism, as cynicism is blind to morality. We must look deep into our conscience and find out where we have faltered," he said.

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