Lucknow, Jan. 8: President Pranab Mukherjee today said rebuilding “the culture” of respecting women, not laws alone, could prevent repeats of the Delhi rape.
The call came at a special programme to mark 125 years of the Uttar Pradesh Assembly and suggested Mukherjee’s continued focus on an issue that has gripped the country and was the theme of his New Year address.
“We are ashamed. A nation must respect its mothers, sisters and daughters. If it can’t, the country is not civilised. This is a fundamental principle on which every civilisation is based. But it is not change of law but only change of culture that can stop a Delhi-like incident from recurring,” the President said at the concluding session of the three-day anniversary celebrations.
The President’s statements came against the backdrop of the outrage against the assault, the growing clamour for change in rape laws and calls for capital punishment.
In the audience were Mulayam Singh Yadav, chief minister Akhilesh, former governor N.D Tiwari and Samajwadi MP Jaya Bachchan — who had broken down as she spoke on the bus gang rape in the Rajya Sabha two days after the incident. Also present were former and current MLAs.
Mukherjee underscored the limits of law in tackling the problem.
“In any civilisation, the culture to respect women is in-built it is a way of life but never imposed by law.” He said it was important now to renew this culture among 120 crore Indian families and described the task as a responsibility “we have to discharge together”. “Let’s do whatever it takes.”
Mukherjee began in Hindi — mindful of the overwhelmingly Hindi-speaking gathering — but later switched to English with the permission of the audience.
The listeners seemed generous in ovation, applauding the President by thumping on the desks as he went on to make his appeals.
The decorous reception would have reminded many in the audience of a session less genteel 16 winters ago. Mikes were wrenched off and used as missiles along with footwear on October 21, 1997, during a trust vote sought by the then Kalyan Singh government.
The President did not mention any instance but the problem of frequent disruptions in legislatures, particularly Parliament, did figure in his speech. “In the recent past, there is an increasing tendency to resort to disruption as a means of parliamentary intervention. It neither serves any purpose nor provides an effective method to get point of view across to the other side.”