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Legislation needed to build culture of tolerance: Pranab

GUWAHATI, Oct 22 - Former President of India Pranab Mukherjee has advocated a legislation to build a culture of tolerance in society. Delivering the Justice (Retd) KN Saikia Memorial Lecture through a video recording here today, he said creating an institutional mechanism to deal with hate speech can be of great help in starting such an initiative.
Mukherjee, who was supposed to deliver the lecture on the topic ‘Tolerance in Indian society’ in person at the Vivekananda Kendra here, could not come due to health issues.
The memorial lecture was organised by the North East Institute of Advanced Studies as its foundation day lecture in memory of its patron Justice (Retd) KN Saikia.
Illustrating his point on legal recourse to deal with intolerance, Mukherjee said that untouchability being deemed an offence, went much further than religious reform movements over 200 years in fighting the practice, as did the legal abolition of sati.
“India’s nationhood is not one language, one religion, one enemy. It is the ‘perennial universalism’ of 1.3 billion people who use more than 122 languages and 1,600 dialects in their every day lives, practise seven major religions, belong to three major ethnic groups – Caucasians, Mongoloids and Dravidians and live under one system, one flag and one identity of being Indian and have ‘no enemies’. That is what makes us a diverse and united nation,’’ the former President mentioned.
“India, the largest democracy of the world – a noisy, vibrant, sprightly democracy, is built on the pillars of three ‘D’s – Debate, Discussion and Dissent and it is my firm belief that ‘Dialogue’ is an equally essential part of realising this democracy and not disruption, under any circumstance. In a democracy, informed and reasoned public engagement on all issues of national importance is essential. A dialogue is necessary not only to balance the competing interests but also to reconcile them,” he further added.
He explained that the soul of India resides in pluralism and celebration of diversity. “This plurality of our society has come through assimilation of ideas over centuries. Secularism and inclusion are a matter of faith for us. It is our composite culture which makes us one nation,” he added.
The former President further stated that peaceful co-existence, compassion, respect for life and harmony with Nature form the foundation of India’s civilisation. “Every time an individual, a child or a woman is brutalised, the soul of India is wounded. Manifestations of rage are tearing our social fabric,” he added.
Earlier, speaking about the life and works of Justice (Retd) KN Saikia, senior judge Justice NK Singh said that apart from being a legal luminary, the late Justice (Retd) Saikia was a humanist in heart. “He was a scholar and a great defender of human rights. The human angle was writ large in many of his judgments. He believed that the credibility of judiciary was relied upon for alleviating the sufferings of the people,” he said mentioning Justice Saikia’s role in the legislation on the Bhopal Gas tragedy and also in popularising CNG.
Justice Rumi Kumari Phukan also spoke on the occasion. Earlier, Keshav Das, founder of North East - IAS delivered the welcome speech and spoke about the institute’s vision to produce at least 1,000 skill-trained and competent youths from every district of Assam.
Former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, former Governor of Bihar and Tripura Devanand Konwar and a number of legal luminaries and prominent persons of the State attended the programme.