Nagpur, June 7 (The Hindu/newsin.asia): Former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee told the radical Hindu outfit, Rashtriya Swyamsewak Sangh (RSS) here on Thursday that secularism and inclusion are needed for maintaining India’s national identity.
“Any attempts at defining our nationhood in terms of dogmas and identities of religion, region, hatred, and intolerance will only lead to dilution of our national identity,” he warned the gathering of RSS volunteers, members and sympathisers.
Mukherjee was participating in the concluding ceremony of the RSS’s third year “Sangh Shiksha Varg.”
“Our national identity has emerged through a long drawn process of confluence, assimilation, and co-existence. We derive our strength from tolerance. We accept and respect our pluralism. We celebrate our diversity. These have been a part of our collective consciousness for centuries,” he asserted.
Recalling the country’s rich, ancient heritage, he said, “The 5000-year-old civilization has remained unbroken. In fact, each conqueror and each foreign element has been absorbed to form a new synthesis and unity.”
According to him, the Indian Constitution was “not merely a legal document but a Magna Carta of socio-economic transformation.”
“It represents the hopes and aspirations of billion plus Indians. From our Constitution flows our nationalism. The construct of Indian nationalism is constitutional patriotism, which consists of an appreciation of our inherited and shared diversity. The soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance,” Mukherjee said.
“Secularism and inclusion are a matter of faith for us. It is the perennial universalism of 1.3 billion people who use more than 122 languages and 1600 dialects, practise seven religions, belong to three major ethnic groups and live under one system,” he said.
He mentioned the contributions of the Indian National Congress, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi to the concept of the modern Indian state and quoted Jawaharlal Nehru.
“Divergent strands in public discourse have to be recognized. We may argue, we may agree or not agree but we cannot deny the essential multiplicity of opinion. Peaceful co-existence, compassion, respect for life and harmony with nature form the foundations of our civilization.”
“Every time a woman or a child is brutalized, 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. We must free our public discourse from all forms of violence, physical as well as verbal. Only a non-violent society can ensure 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,” he added.
Before heading to Reshimbag, Mukherjee visited the birthplace of the RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar in Mahal area of the city where he was welcomed by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and General Secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi.
“Today, I came here to pay my respect and homage to a great son of Mother India,” Mukherjee wrote in the visitors’ book at Hedgewar’s birthplace.
(The featured image at the top shows former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee with the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat)