Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai pledged on Monday (15 August) to end oppression of the country's 80 million untouchables in a speech marking 30 years of his country's independence.
GV Prime Minister Desai inspecting guard of honour
CU Prime Minister's guard
SV Prime Minister walks to dais and unfurls national flag (2 shots)
SV Prime Minister addressing large crowd with diplomats listening (4 shots)
SV Prime Minister walks down from rostrum
The country had suffered a lot from discriminating against Harijans, he said, adding: "We must put and end to it in five years."
In May, 11 Harijans were shot dead and their bodies burned in a village in the North-Eastern state of Bihah. In an apparent response to increasing public concern for fair treatment for the Harijans, Mr. Desai included several of them in his council of ministers after his election victory in March.
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Background: Indian Prime Minister Morarji Desai pledged on Monday (15 August) to end oppression of the country's 80 million untouchables in a speech marking 30 years of his country's independence. He described former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's 21-month emergency rule as the "era of atrocities" and said he would create a society free from fear.
SYNOPSIS: The Prime Minister inspected a guard of honour before climbing the ramparts of Delhi's historic Red Fort to deliver his Independence Day speech in front of a mammoth crowd. It was the first time since India's independence from Britain in 1947 that a Prime Minister from a party other than the Congress Party had made this traditional speech, and unfurled the national flag. Mr. Desai promised that he will provide a government that would serve the people and solve their problems. He was sure the economic measures he was taking would check inflation.
Mr. Desai's audience included diplomats, senior government ministers and leading personalities from all walks of Indian life. He said he wanted to set a time limit for ending discrimination against Untouchables, India's lowest social caste. His comments came in the wake of a growing campaign by the ousted Congress Party to highlight, the plight of the untouchables, known as "Harijans", or "children of God" -- a term coined by Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi.