Any attempt to define India through religion, intolerance will dilute its existence: Pranab Mukherjee at RSS event in Nagpur
At the event, Mukherjee said intolerance will only dilute India' national identity and Indian nationalism emanated from universalism, assimilation and co-existence.
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NAGPUR: Former President Pranab Mukherjee put up a strong case for increasing dialogue, having tolerant attitude, adopting non-violence and striving for the happiness of the people as he addressed the RSS cadres at the valedictory function of the Third Year Sangha Shiksha Varg (SSV) here at Nagpur on Thursday.
The Congress veteran Pranab Mukherjee today warned that any attempt to define India through "religion, dogma or intolerance" will only dilute the country's existence, as he attended an RSS event amid criticism by several of his party leaders including his own daughter.
Mukherjee said intolerance will only dilute India' national identity and Indian nationalism emanated from universalism, assimilation and co-existence.
"In India, we derive our strength from tolerance, and respect our pluralism. We celebrate our diversity," he said.
"I am here to share my understanding on nation, nationalism and patriotism about our country which is 'Bharat'," said Mukherjee, who served as President of India between 2012 and 2017.
“Divergent strands in the public discourse have to be recognized. We can’t deny essential prevalence of multiplicity of opinion. Only through a dialogue can we develop the understanding to solve complex problems without an unhealthy strife within our polity,” Mukherjee said.
Starting with the dictionary meanings of the words Nation, Nationality and Patriotism, Mukherjee took an overview of over 2500 years of Indian history to explain how these terms have evolved in Indian context. He stressed on the fact that the soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance.
“Secularism and inclusion are a matter of faith for us. It is our composite culture that makes us a one nation,” Mukherjee said and went on to add - “Indian nationhood is not one language, one religion, one enemy. It is the perennial universalism of the 1.3billion people who use 122 languages and 1600 dialects in their everyday lives, practice 7 major religions, belong to 3 major ethnic groups and live under one system, one flag and one identity.”
While stressing that peaceful co-existance, compassion, respect for life and harmony with nature form the foundation of our civilization, Mukherjee said, “We must free our public discourse from all forms of violence.”
“Only non-violent society can ensure participation of all sections of people in the democratic process, especially the marginalized and the dispossessed,” he said and emphasized a need to move from anger, violence and conflict to peace, harmony and happiness.
Quoting Kautilya Mukherjee stressed that the state should strive for the happiness of its people.
“Let the objective of spreading peace, harmony and happiness inform the formulation of our public policy and guide all the actions of our state and citizens in everyday life,” Mukherjee said and added - “This and only this will be able to create a happy nation where nationalism flows automatically”.
Before the former president spoke, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said the debate over Mukherjee's decision to attend the RSS event was "meaningless" and no one is an outsider for his organisation.
While the Sangh is often described as a Hindu right-wing organisation, it calls itself a nationalist and cultural organisation rather than a political or religious one.
It was founded by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar , on September 27, 1925 on Vijayadashami day at his house here.
Mukherjee's decision to attent the RSS event has already triggered a major political slugfest with several Congress leaders criticising his decision.
Senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel today expressed his disapproval at former president Pranab Mukherjee visiting the RSS headquarters in Nagpur and said he did not expect this from him.
Mukherjee's daughter and Congress leader Sharmistha had yesterday said her father was giving the BJP and the Sangh a handle to plant false stories with his decision to speak at the RSS event.
Speaking ahead of Mukherjee's speech, Bhagwat said Mukherjee will remain what he is and the Sangh will remain the Sangh even after the event.
Bhagwat said his organisation wants to unify the entire society and no one was an outsider for it.
People may have different views but they are all children of mother India, he said.
Bhagwat said the Sangh has inviting prominent people to its event every year.
Those present at today's event also included former prime minister Lal Bahadu Shastri's son Sunil Shastri, as also Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's nephew Ardhendu Bose along with his wife and son.
Earlier in the day, Mukherjee described Hedgewar as a "great son of Mother India' as he visited the birthplace of the RSS founding Sarsanghachalak.
"Today I came here to pay my respect and homage to a great son of Mother India," Mukherjee wrote in a visitor's book at Hedgewar's birthplace ahead of his much-anticipated speech at the RSS headquarters here.