New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee said on Friday it is time for the country to “reset its moral compass” in the wake of the savage gang rape and murder of a student last month that ignited nationwide protests.
Speaking on the eve of Republic Day celebrations, Mukherjee called the 23-year-old woman’s death a “grave tragedy” that has shattered the country’s complacency.
“The brutal rape and murder of a young woman, a woman who was symbol of all that new India strives to be, has left our hearts empty and our minds in turmoil,” he said in a nationwide televised address.
“We lost more than a valuable life—we lost a dream. If today young Indians feel outraged, can we blame our youth?,” he asked.
Five men are on trial in New Delhi for murder and gang rape while a sixth has said he is under 18 and that his case should be heard in juvenile court.
The promising student, who was studying physiotherapy, was assaulted with an iron rod in the attack that sparked street protests.
She died of massive internal injuries nearly two weeks after the 16 December attack.
“When we brutalise a woman, we wound the soul of our nation,” the President said.
“It is time for the nation to reset its moral compass... We must look deep into our conscience and find out where we have faltered.”
In a wide-ranging speech, he also referred to corruption besetting the political scene and the need for economic equality in the country.
“Elected representatives must win back people’s confidence,” he said.
“We must ensure the fruits of economic growth do not become the monopoly of the privileged at the peak of a pyramid,” he added.
“The primary purpose of wealth creation must be to drive out the evil of hunger.”
Saturday marks Republic Day—the date in 1950 when the country’s new constitution came into effect. A special ceremony is to take place in New Delhi with tens of thousands of police deployed across the capital as security is tightened.