Soul of India lies in pluralism, tolerance: Pranab Mukherjee
New Delhi: In his final address to the nation on Monday, President Pranab Mukherjee reiterated that the soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance, underpinned by what he called “the essential prevalence of multiplicity of opinion”.
Mukherjee, in his farewell speech, said that plurality of society had come about through the assimilation of ideas over centuries. The multiplicity of cultures, faiths and languages was what made India special, he added.
“We derive our strength from tolerance. It has been part of our collective consciousness for centuries. There are divergent strands in public discourse. We may argue, we may agree or we may not agree. But we cannot deny the essential prevalence of multiplicity of opinion. Otherwise, a fundamental character of our thought process will wither away,” said Mukherjee in his last address to the nation.
Mukherjee’s tenure ends on Tuesday when Ram Nath Kovind takes charge as the new President.
Mukherjee emphasized that the capacity for compassion and empathy was the true foundation of Indian civilization but expressed concern that there had been increase in violence. He said that the power of non-violence had to be resurrected for a caring and compassionate society.
“At the heart of this violence is darkness, fear and mistrust. We must free our public discourse from all forms of violence, physical as well as verbal. Only a non-violent society can ensure the participation of all sections of the people, especially the marginalized and the dispossessed, in the democratic process,” the President said.
Mukherjee said that the creation of an inclusive society should be an article of faith and added that financial inclusion was at the core of an equitable society. “We must empower the poorest of the poor and ensure that the fruits of our policies reach the last person in the line.”
“Gandhiji saw India as an inclusive nation where every section of our population lived in equality and enjoyed equal opportunity. He wanted our people to move forward unitedly in ever-widening thought and action,” Mukherjee said.
He went on to state that social inclusion and good governance would give people the ability to shape their lives through transparent, accountable and participatory political institutions.
“Happiness is equally the outcome of economic and non-economic parameters. The quest for happiness is closely tied to the quest for sustainable development, which is the combination of human well-being, social inclusion and environmental stability. Eradication of poverty would provide a strong boost to happiness. A sustainable environment would prevent damage to planetary resources,” the President added.
Mukherjee said the Indian education system must accept disruption as a norm and prepare students to manage and build upon disruptions.
“Our universities should not be a place for rote-memorizing but an assembly of inquisitive minds. Creative thinking, innovation and scientific temper have to be promoted in our institutions of higher learning. It calls for application of logic through discussion, argument and analysis. These qualities have to be cultivated and autonomy of mind has to be encouraged,” he said.
Political analysts feel Mukherjee is striving to take a well-defined ideological stand.
“The President would not want to maintain a separate stand from the government but he is emphasizing his political roots as he leaves office,” said Jai Mrug, a Mumbai-based political analyst.
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