KOLKATA: President Pranab Mukherjee today said the "rights and sensitivities" of the minorities must be respected "in letter and spirit" to ensure every community is a part of the "national narrative", remarks that come against the backdrop of the row over religious intolerance.
Mukherjee also said the State must do its best to provide equal treatment to every citizen and asked people to rise above caste and communal loyalties.
"We must encourage a broad human outlook in all our citizens and educate them to rise above caste or communal loyalties. We must learn to respect the rights and sensitivities of minorities, both in letter and spirit," he said while delivering the Indira Gandhi Memorial Lecture of the Asiatic Society here.
Focus should remain on raising standards of living and reducing existing disparities in power, wealth, income, consumption and utilisation of social services like education and health, the President said.
"The State must do its best to reduce regional imbalances and provide a just, fair and good administration which will ensure equal treatment to every individual irrespective of his caste, religion, race, colour, sex or place of birth," Mukherjee said.
The President said," Sometimes it does happen that regional interests overtake our commitment to the national interest and one has to guard against such tendencies."
"We must cultivate a secular and democratic outlook, and promote a way of life that is inclusive and that does not interfere with civic duties and rights as well as responsibilities," he said.
Calling for maintaining an atmosphere where every community feels a part of the "national narrative", Mukherjee said national integration demands that every citizen recognise the primacy of national interest over group or individual interests.
The President said an individual owes loyalty to family, his profession, residence, language, religion, country to which he belongs.
"Loyalties to these different groups do not however need to be in conflict with one another. They can exist in harmony and whenever these interest collide, methods of reconciling them should be worked out," he said.
The President said in a nation every individual belongs to certain groups and interests simultaneously which makes groups as important as individuals.
"It is is therefore necessary to also lay the foundations for national integration at that level," he said.
Appreciating the role of Asiatic Society, the President said it was founded by William Jones and was declared an Institution of National importance by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1984 through an Act of Parliament.
"It can be said that the revival of India's spirit originated here. The world's attention was drawn to India's philosophical thought, literature, mathematics, astronomy, and scientific investigations," he said.