"This great day is an occasion for expressing regards and gratitude towards all the known and unknown people who sacrificed their lives while fighting the British rule," Qureshi said in his message to people of the state on the eve of Independence Day.

"We pay our tribute to Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation and the leader of the freedom struggle, and all those who contributed to bring in the dawn of independence.

"It is after independence that we acquired the distinction of becoming the largest democracy of the world which has given the opportunity to all people, irrespective of their religion, caste, class and culture to live a free life," Qureshi said.

Describing crime against women, lawlessness, separatism and natural disasters as the challenges facing the country today, he said people need to unitedly grapple with them.

Terming the last year's calamity in Uttarakhand as one of the worst in its history, he exhorted people of the state to take a pledge to minimise the gulf between the haves and have- nots of society.

"We are faced today with the great challenge of taking our state forward after the natural disaster that hit it last year.

"We all must resolve today that we will, with our active and positive involvement, take our state to a position where the difference between the haves and have-nots is minimised," he said.

This effort of ours will be the true expression of gratitude and tribute towards the heroes of our freedom struggle," the Governor said.

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