The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Advani for early end to war

Chennai, March 23: Reiterating India’s “sense of anguish” against the US-led war against Iraq, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani said India hoped “this unfortunate situation comes to an end soon”.

He was talking to reporters after participating in the silver jubilee celebration of the Meenakshi College for Women here. “We can only hope that this unfortunate situation comes to an end soon,” Advani said.

Stating that India had made its position clear on the issue, he referred to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee having said “our reaction is one of anguish”. “We were hoping against hope that the problem would be sorted out without a war,” Advani said.

India also hoped Iraq would comply with the UN Security Council’s resolution regarding destruction of weapons of mass destruction. “If not complied with, action must be taken by the UN Security Council,” he said. “Unilateralism will only weaken the United Nations and it may have unfortunate consequences.”

Earlier, in his silver jubilee address to the college, Advani urged the country’s youth to make the “21st Century, India’s century”.

In what appeared to be a subtle signal of preparing himself for a larger role at the Centre, Advani passionately urged the large gathering to “let us have a collective aspiration and ambition” to leave India’s stamp on this century.

He emphasised it was the youth and institutions such as Meenakshi college that could achieve the goal of making “India a great country”.

Advani regretted that the sense of “collective aspiration and motivation” that had galvanised the pre-1947 generation to throw out the British had “disappeared” after Independence. Post-1947, individual aspirations smothered collective aspirations, he said.

The 20th Century, Advani pointed out, had “belonged to the West”. The first part of the last century was largely dominated by Britain and the second half by the US and Russia and Japan, to an extent, he said.

Advani ridiculed the popular notion that India needed to learn gender equality from the West when he commended the college secretary and its chief guiding spirit, K.S. Lakshmi, for creating a unique institution dedicated to women’s education.

“This (notion on gender equality) is totally untrue,” he said, referring to the circumstances in which women in Britain gained voting rights when the House of Commons adopted a Bill for universal adult suffrage in 1917.

According to that Bill, women were considered “matured enough” to vote only at the age of 27 though men could vote from 21, Advani said.

“Such debates over man-woman superiority,” he said, “were never seen in India’s Constitution Assembly debates.”

“If you look at the concept of God, the deities symbolising learning and wisdom, wealth and prosperity and power have, respectively, been Saraswati, Lakshmi and Durga, all of whom are Goddesses.”

Advani provoked laughter when he said the only concession to the male was “in the concept of Ardhanareeshwara (half male and half female)”.

He took the opportunity to “entirely endorse” Nobel laureate Amartya Sen’s view that India’s neglect in the past of two critical sectors of education and health had impeded the country’s progress. These two sectors deserved the maximum attention, Advani said.

Among those present at the function were former President R. Venkataraman and state ministers S. Semmalai and D. Jayakumar.

Later, Advani flew by helicopter to Melmaruvathur, about 60 km from here, to participate in a function at the “sakthi peetam” there.

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