(The text of the Speech delivered by Mr.Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former Governor of West Bengal as Convocation Address on the occasion of
24th Convocation of Periyar Maniammai University,
held on 14th October 2016)
Esteemed Chancellor Sir, it is impossible to speak after hearing your wonderful words. You have spoken in a rare combination of head and heart in an interwoven style. Nobody can match what you said, and yet under existing status I shall attempt to respond.
Esteemed Chancellor, esteemed Vice Chancellor, Registrar, Chief Guest Dr.Narthagi Natraj, esteemed Mrs. Veeramani, in the audience,
Faculty and holders of different offices in various universities, students and parents of students,
Coming to the Periyar Maniammai university, has for me has been an eye opener.
I knew it was a very exceptional place, but I did not know, how exceptional it was, until I came and saw this morning.
But what has been achieved by the standards of this University, without the assistance of the Government of India or the Government of the State, but out of public funds and public service, is an extraordinary achievement.
I congratulate you, Mr. Chancellor for what you have done and what you have made for this university.
No comparison can be exact; but, I want to say this.
That is, what Acharya Vinoba Bhave, was to Mahatma Gandhi – you have been to Periyar Ramasamy.
Acharya Vinoba Bhave did not occupy political office but he continued the spirit of his master.
You have done the same. You are to Periyar what Vinoba was to Gandhi.
You are also a great blend of the tradition and the modernity. You are connecting in every sense of the word and yet you are not bound by any cult.
You are extremely forward looking and keeping pace with the times.
It is something very rare to find this blend of the tradition and modernity.
This University, named after Periyar and Maniammai is not an ordinary university. It carries a great tradition but also looks ahead in many ways; it is the ‘university of the future’. I want to congratulate all the students who are here to receive the degree, and I also want to very specially congratulate the recipient of Doctor of Letters, who is present here.
Dr. Natraj is the figure of the future, she points to a more innovative, creative and equal world – the world which has denied you your rights all these years. The world in which custom bound, limited and conditioned ways of thinking, as our Chancellor said, we give way to new light, to new life, new energy.
I want to also congratulate the parents – manavargalin petrorgalukku en Valthukkalai sollukiren (I GREET THE PARENTS OF THE STUDENTS). Without the parents’ backing no student could have come to this level which they are in this university. Behind every participant – student here today is the silent and devoted support given by the parent.
I have to respond to what the Chancellor said, about the great history of the feeling of anger. By referring to that, I will come to our present times, the legacy of Thanthai Periyar and Rajaji. Conflicting views are beautifully interwoven, as our Chancellor wonderfully said. We should not over stress the differences between them in order to emphasise their affection and we may not over stress the affection in order to spare their differences. But there is a tremendous balance between those two leaders and the balance comes from the sense of mutual respect. That respect which the two people had for each other, even when there were differences which were strong has gone today (in public life).
Where is the respect which people have for the opponents, today? It is just missing. In no part of our country do we find the close bonding between colleagues and between adversaries.
It is just not there.
The regrettable words, I use, by politicians to describe their political adversaries and this not only do shape their relationship but the political atmosphere and political culture of our country
It is very important that you learn from Thanthai Periyar and Moodharignar Rajaji.
How they responded to difference even when they were above 90!
How not to carry differences in the personal relationships!
I am amazed at the archival veracity of our Chancellor. He has a rare knack of finding relevant documents from the past and he has demonstrated it today. Our history has lost its presence; we in politics have lost; in political memory, we have only retained political bitterness.
The sweetness of memories has been lost; only sourness and bitterness of relationship remain that is something which we have to correct.
I hope to give a few words of advice to the students, because they have wonderful teachers amongst them; wonderful parents and wonderful mentors.
I just want to say that there are THREE things that our students need to learn from the relationship of Rajaji and Periyar. This should be placed in your minds; I am telling now this to the students; there should be no place in your minds for jealousy, for any reason, what in Tamil is called ‘poramai’. Manusula poraimaikku edamae irruka kudathu (THERE SHOULD NO ROOM FOR JEALOUSY IN THE MIND). Why do allow jealousy in?
It’s still better.
And then there should be no violence in your lives. There can be a lot of differences but no violence but only beautiful relationships. I am saying most modern persons have relationships that are based on mutual love and respect. And do not do two things,
1. Do not hurt any people
2. Do not exploit any people
If you do not hurt or exploit somebody you are on good ground. Any relationship is a good relationship when there is no any role in it for violence.
The third thing is resentment – connected to jealousy (poramai)
We are living in a competitive world. There are Grades – I, II, III – First class, Distinction and then, there it goes; they are important at the stage of examinations but they are not important at the stage of life, in the larger theatre of life.
The competition goes; the achievers of one event may not be achievers in life; it is those who do not achieve, not done wonderfully, they may actually do much better in life; not just for themselves, but for the society.
And so, do not judge or resent people for what they are and what they have done in the University but what they are in their nature, in their inner souls.
I want to tell you, ‘Do not look for Leaders’!
Thalivarai thedi neengal engum poga vendiathu illai.
Neengalay ungaludiya thalaivar agalam
(DO NOT SEARCH FOR LEADERS ELSEWHERE;
YOU CAN BECOME YOUR OWN LEADERS)
Political leaders are necessary in society, because our democratic system requires political leaders, but political leaders need not be leaders in every sense of the word. This is necessary. But they need not be your role models. The real leaders are not political leaders or business leaders, but they are leaders of thought, leaders in their values, leaders in the way they have confronted the problems of today.
Make your leaders
Not necessarily persons, but movements
Not necessarily individuals, but examples,
And not necessarily living example, but those from history like Periyar and Rajaji.
I cannot think of a more relevant person than Periyar, in today’s context.
I want to say this, that in India we have two great awards.
One is called the Mahatma Gandhi Award, and the other is called the Jawaharlal Nehru Award. These are international awards.
And I believe that it is not important that they carry a monetary dimension.
I think it’s one crore rupees, given to international people.
But, I long to seek with sincerity, truly from of my heart,
I long to see an International Award in the name of Periyar
And I will tell you, one crore is nothing for someone like Periyar.
An international prize whether set up by Government or by somebody else.
And I think this is admirably sharing the thought.
There should be three Periyar prizes like the Nobel prizes.
• One, this is given for public action; for the removal of inequality. In other words the Periyar prize for Social Justice.
• Another, Periyar prize international for the Arts or any other formal arts that has made a difference for the creation of an equal world. A world of equal opportunities, and
• the Third, that is an idea I got in me, after visiting your University, the Periyar prize for ‘sciences of the future’.
Your campus has an amazing initiative, for the use of waste and your Chancellor has given a wonderful motto ‘Wealth from Waste’
Today, the world is wasting its wealth, but here you have an idea which says, ‘Wealth from Waste’.
I do not know many places where waste, natural, biological, botanical or anything being used and rejected as waste. Such type of waste is being used in your University.
I am glad to conclude by saying that the great person, the renaissance man after whom this University is named – his name alongside the name of his wife, giving us an example of the equality of genders, that great man, is not a figure from the past; he beckons us to go into more remarkable in the future. We see a great contradiction; superstition is increasing in our times; religious animosity is increasing in our times; hatred, in the name of religion is increasing in our times.
Almost everything which Periyar and Rajaji, in their different positions have been warning us, is coming fast.
Secularism is under danger
How do we arrest this? How do you stop this?
This is a campus, the hall itself shows, how people from different denominations and different religions are meant to live together in peace and harmony
I cannot thank this University enough for having given me this opportunity to come to this campus, and join all of you, on this occasion.
For me it is a very special occasion, I do not have words enough, Thank You!
I hope to continue this association for as long it is possible for me to be around and I draw inspiration from the great energy resources of your Chancellor, whose sense of dedication, commitment and practical application increases and do not diminish.