Soul of India resides in pluralism; dialogue essential for democracy: Pranab Mukherjee
"Divergent strands in public discourse have to be recognised. We may argue, we may agree, or we may not agree. But we cannot deny the essential prevalence of multiplicity of opinion," Pranab Mukherjee said.
Former president Pranab Mukherjee expressed concern over the “increase in violence” arising out of differences among people and the “utter disregard” for human life which is hurting the nation’s harmony. Advertising
Stating that the soul of India resides in pluralism and celebration of diversity, Mukherjee said, “Every time an individual, a child or woman is brutalised, the soul of India is wounded. Manifestations of rage are tearing our social fabric. Every day we see increased violence around us. At the heart of this violence is darkness, fear, and mistrust.”
Delivering a lecture at the North East Institute of Advanced Studies on its Foundation Day via video conferencing from Delhi, Mukherjee also said that there is a need to encourage reasoned public engagement on all issues of national importance. Mukherjee also stressed that dialogue, not disruption was essential for a healthy democracy.
“Divergent strands in public discourse have to be recognised. We may argue, we may agree, or we may not agree. But we cannot deny the essential prevalence of multiplicity of opinion. The 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 into one nation,” he said.
Stressing that the public discourse in the country needs to move from all forms of violence, Mukherjee said, “Only a non-violent society can ensure the participation of all sections of people in the democratic process, especially the marginalized and the dispossessed. We must move from anger, violence, and conflict to peace, harmony, and happiness.”
“Violence not only perpetuates physical harm but mental, intellectual and socio-economic destruction as well. There is an utter disregard for the life of fellow humans; there is mistrust and hatred; there is suspicion and jealousy,” he added.
Stating that “circumstances today have forced us to ask ourselves if we have lived up to the aspirations of the Father of our Nation,” the former president said, “Tolerance, as I envision it, is essentially a state of mind. I strongly believe that it is a manifestation of our age-old belief in ahimsa. Today, more than ever, we need to remind ourselves of that unfettering faith the Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, had in ahimsa and not just tolerance, but mutual respect.”
Mukherjee, who has been awarded the Bharat Ratna, said peaceful co-existence, compassion, respect for life, and harmony with nature forms the foundation of our civilisation.
In 2016, on the eve of Independence Day, Mukherjee, then the President of India, had called the violence against “weaker sections” that militate against the national ethos as “aberrations” and said that attack on Dalits should be dealt with “firmly.”