CHENNAI: Being inclusive and accepting of every single Indian — with all their plurality, differences and faiths — is not a choice, but a dictum, said former President, Bharat Ratna Pranab Mukherjee.
Speaking at the inaugural session of TNIE’S ThinkEdu Conclave in Chennai on Wednesday, Mukherjee said, “Inclusion and Inclusivity are not a matter of choice for us. It is our legacy, our karma as well as our dharma. As the inheritors of the philosophy of Sarve Sukhina Bhavantu, Sarvodaya and Antodaya, we as a nation are bound by inclusion — be it social, economic or political.”
Talking on the subject ‘education architecture for an inclusive India’, Mukherjee recommended that we give due recognition to cultural, technological and traditional skills; promote scientific temper among the youngsters; and set up more innovation clubs and tinkering labs.
Governor of TN, Banwarilal Purohit was the chief guest and formally inaugurated the conclave. TNIE Editorial Director Prabhu Chawla introduced the speakers. Reflecting on the need for tolerance, Pranab said,
“We are not only to be tolerant of difference and dissent but understanding and respectful towards all diversity.”
“We are one because we are diverse... I want to share with you some truths that I have internalised during my fifty year long public life. The soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance.
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 into one nation. India’s nationhood is not One Language, One Religion, One Enemy.”
Several other eminent speakers discussed various facets of education on the first day of the two-day conclave. The list includes CBSE Chairperson Anita Karwal, CSIR chief Shekhar C Mande and economist Bibek Debroy.
On the occasion, Mukherjee also expressed his concern over the present education system in the country. He pointed out that the education system is not an inclusive one. “According to the 2011 Census, there has been an 8.66 per cent growth in the literacy rate in India. But we need to honestly answer if this growth rate has been inclusive,” said Mukherjee.
Though a lot of people have objected to characterising the average Indian as a Bharatiya, because of the contention that it tended to hyper-nationalism, Mukherjee, a career congressman before he became President pushed for a more unifying plank when he said, “It is the ‘Perennial Universalism’ of 1.3 billion people who use more than 122 languages and 1,600 dialects in their everyday lives, practice 7 major religions, belong to 3 major ethnic groups – Caucasians, Mongoloids, and Dravidians living under one system, one flag and one identity of being ‘Bhartiya’ and have ‘no animosity towards any’. That is what makes Bharat a diverse and united nation.”
Ever the witty elocutor, Mukherjee cited an example of how inclusivity began in the smallest of ways. “Prejudice is a great barrier to inclusion. India is a land of vast diversity. This diversity and plurality is an integral part of this nation, as they are an integral part of our heritage. As I speak to you, it is possible that some of my words may not be internalised. However, your desire to hear my suggestion is truly exemplary of inclusion. Knowledge helps one understand of exclusion. It can understand your difficulty in acceptance. Yet, it can provoke you to become a world citizen.”
“We will soon have one of the youngest population anywhere in the world. Are we teaching them to be the kind of Indians who will make our country more prosperous? Does this growth rate also apply to all those who could not gain access to basic education?” added Mukherjee. He exhorted people to pass on knowledge with insight and feed patriotism with renewed passion. Read full stories on www.newindianexpress.com