Acknowledging dissent as “a virtue of democracy”, President Pranab Mukherjee said Monday that people must “continue to complain, to demand, to rebel”. He again referred to acts of growing intolerance, saying the country will have to guard itself against the “forces of violence” and “unreason”.
Addressing the nation on the eve of Republic Day, Mukherjee said: “There will be, amongst us, occasional doubters and baiters. Let us continue to complain, to demand, to rebel. This too is a virtue of democracy. But let us also applaud what our democracy has achieved. With investments in infrastructure, manufacturing, health, education, science and technology, we are positioning ourselves well for achieving a higher growth rate which will in the next 10 to 15 years help us eliminate poverty.”
“Reverence for the past is one of the essential ingredients of nationalism. Our finest inheritance, the institutions of democracy, ensure to all citizens justice, equality, and gender and economic equity. When grim instances of violence hit at these established values which are at the core of our nationhood, it is time to take note. We must guard ourselves against the forces of violence, intolerance and unreason.”
The continuing stalemate in Parliament — the Budget session begins next month — too found mention in the address with the President urging law makers to embrace the “spirit of accommodation, cooperation and consensus-building” as “delays in decision-making and implementation can only harm the process of development”.
In a slanted reference to the spate of terror attacks in wake of Indian efforts to revive dialogue with Pakistan, Mukherjee said, “Nations will never agree on everything, but the challenge today is existential. Terrorists seek to undermine order by rejecting the very basis of strategic stability, which are recognised borders. If outlaws are able to unravel borders, then we are heading towards an age of chaos. There will be disputes among nations and, as is well-known, the closer we are to a neighbour the higher the propensity for disputes. There is a civilised way to bridge disagreement; dialogue, ideally, should be a continual engagement. But we cannot discuss peace under a shower of bullets.”
He, however, underlined the importance of sustained dialogue in such times. “We on our subcontinent have a historic opportunity to become a beacon to the world at a time of great danger. We must attempt to resolve the complex edges of our emotional and geo-political inheritance with our neighbours through a peaceful dialogue, and invest in mutual prosperity by recognising that human beings are best defined by a humane spirit, and not their worst instincts. Our example can be its own message to a world in anxious need of amity.”
Mukherjee also called for innovative solutions to the problem of pollution, but said that these ideas can only be successfully implemented when people own these changes.
“Each of us has the right to lead a healthy, happy and productive life in India. This right has been breached, especially in our cities, where pollution has reached alarming levels. Climate change has acquired real meaning with 2015 turning out to be the warmest year on record. Multiple strategies and action at various levels is necessary. Innovative solutions of urban planning, use of clean energy, and changing the mindsets of the people call for active participation of all stakeholders. Permanence of such changes can be ensured only if people own these changes,” he said.