Vimarsha: 'Swami Vivekananda on Women: Meeting the Contemporary Challenges' a talk by Shri Dhanendra Kumar
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With the gruesome Delhi gang-rape of last December shaking up the conscience of this very nation, also providing a strong stimulus for course correction measures, a talk on 'Swami Vivekananda on Women: Meeting the Contemporary Challenges' was organized by Vivekananda International Foundation on January 28, 2013, with Shri Dhanendra Kumar, former Secretary Culture, Govt. of India and former Executive Director World Bank as the chief speaker. The significance of VIF’s first ‘Vimarsha’ (an ongoing series of monthly talks) in the year 2013 gets underlined by the fact that the Foundation chose to highlight it at a time when the country is already celebrating the 150th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda, a great saint who worked tirelessly to uplift the plight of women, in particular the Indian women.

As the evening session progressed after the traditional chanting of mantra invoking universal peace, Shri Ajit Doval, KC, Director VIF, made an introductory speech, highlighting, in particular, the fact that the heinous crime perpetrated against a hapless girl however condemnable it might be, pointed to a much bigger malice - the seeping rot in the society at large. He observed rather ruefully that while India may have progressed economically, technologically and so on, she is increasingly devoid of the centuries’ old civilizational ethos and values – bonds that have held India together as a nation for centuries. It is highly deplorable that those bonds are being eroded with impunity.

A series of youth protests and demonstrations in recent times, starting with the anti-corruption campaign in 2011, is a clear indication of the degradation of age old values, but it is also pointer to a much larger issue - the systemic failure of governance. In so far as the conditions of women in the society are concerned, he observed, “there is a very strange correlation between the growth of a society and the status of women in that society’. History is a testimony that as long as women are respected and enjoy a certain degree of status in the societies, the societies themselves progress. In so far as the case of India is concerned, our golden periods in history were those when women were at the forefront of our philosophical thoughts. However, with the gradual marginalization of the Indian women, the status of India as a nation has also suffered correspondingly. Swami Vivekananda, who wanted India to reawaken to its true potentials, had great respect for women. What can be a better tribute to this great saint of the land than to relook at the status of women in our societies, especially in the year of his 150th birth anniversary?

The chief speaker, Shri Dhanendra Kumar, a retired I.A.S. with long working experience on women empowerment, also underscored that mobilization of youth support for the rape victim presents a ray of hope that all is not lost yet. Swami Vivekananda had reposed great faith in the power of youth to bring about the right transformation within the society. The tsunami of emotions unleashed after the rape incident, especially the massive outpouring of anger by the youth undoubtedly has presented the country with a historic opportunity to galvanize the youth power to constructive purposes, especially towards nation building. The nation must seize this opportunity.

The erudite speaker, who is also one of the Vice Presidents of Swami Vivekananda Sharada Shati Samaroh Samiti, a national level committee formed to carry forward the teachings of Swamiji in five segments of the society – one of them being Samvardhini which focuses specifically on women empowerment, highlighted that unlike in the West where woman is perceived only as a ‘wife’, the Indian tradition has been to treat women reverentially as a ‘mother’. However, women in India suffer from the worst form of discrimination, including a dismal sex ratio, as compared to men. Quoting copiously from Swami Vivekananda, Shri Kumar said that women empowerment and mobilization of youth power were among essential ingredients to make India a great nation. There is however a requirement to build a system of education which focuses on character building, especially among the children and youth. A lively interactive session followed after the talk.

Before the session drew to an end, Shri Manas Bhattacharya, Assistant Secretary VIF, gave a broad overview of the various activities and programmes which are planned to be undertaken across the whole of India as part of the 150thbirth anniversary celebrations of Swamiji. He urged everyone present to take part whole heartedly in these activities, covered broadly under five dimensions – Asmita, Gramayan, Yuva Shakti, Prabuddha Bharat, and Samvardhini.

Report prepared by Sanjay Kumar

Event Date 
January 28, 2013
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