President Ram Nath Kovind on Tuesday said Bengal has certain advantages as a border state but also certain responsibilities in guarding against forces of radicalism and extremism.
"Being a border state gives Bengal certain advantages. It also gives it certain responsibilities. Forces of radicalism and extremism, some of them with cross-border linkages, seek to take advantage of our democratic spaces. We must guard against this," he said while speaking at a civic reception accorded to him here.
Kovind, on his maiden visit to the state after taking over as President, expressed his gratitude to Bengal for the "warm welcome" and thanked Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for a unique gift.
"I am happy to say that I am deeply touched by the warm welcome which has been accorded to me in the land of Bengal. I was more surprised when Chief Minister presented me a painting. She said this is her own painting. Honourable Chief Minister, I assure you that, of course, it will be in Rashtrapati Bhavan. But it will always remain close to my heart," he said.
Hailing the state for its rich culture and history, he said: "There are few people anywhere in our country who have not been touched by Bengal or by some creation of Bengal. Somehow, in some manner, the state has touched every Indian and enriched the life of every Indian."
Citing many freedom fighters from Bengal, he said three sons of Bengal - Rabindranath Tagore, Bankim Chanra Chattorpadhyay and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose - were instrumental for defining nationalism.
"Our freedom came faster because of the energy they gave our people," he said.
The President described Kolkata as the city with a heart and Bengalis as people with a heart.
He also mentioned that nation building owed a lot to Bengal and the sacrifices and historical achievements of the people of the state.
He noted that Bengal embraced refugees escaping from a brutal military crackdown in what was then East Pakistan. "It generously shared whatever little it had with those who had run away from oppression. We can never forget that. The world can never forget that," he added.
Reminding the past glory of industrialisation in the state, he said: "Bengal was an early industrial and manufacturing centre in our country. Its economy must sing again in this age of digital and robotic technologies. Its farmers must be equipped with the latest agricultural knowledge to allow them to realise their potential."