Quoting Shivaji’s letter to Aurangzeb decrying bigotry, President Pranab Mukherjee, in his Independence Day-eve address to the nation on Thursday, warned against “the poison drip of inflammatory provocation”, and “intolerance and violence”.
He also emphasised the importance of institutions in good governance. “I sometimes wonder: has our democracy become too noisy? Have we lost the art of contemplation and calm thinking? Is it not the time to restore the grandeur and glory of our institutions that have sustained and nourished our beautiful democracy? Should not Parliament again become the great hall of sombre thought and well-debated legislation? Should not our courts of law become temples of justice? This calls for collective action by all the stakeholders,” he said.
“With the passage of time and changes in the ecosystem, distortions do appear making some institutions dysfunctional. When one institution does not function in the manner expected of it, phenomenon of overreach sets in… While some new institutions might become necessary, the real solution lies in re-inventing and restoring the existing ones to serve the purpose of effective government,” said Mukherjee.
Describing “intolerance and violence” as a “betrayal of the letter and spirit of democracy”, he said, “Those who believe in the poison drip of inflammatory provocation do not understand India’s values or even its present political impulses. Indians know that progress, economic or social, is difficult without peace. This may be the appropriate moment to recall the great Shivaji’s letter to Aurangzeb when the latter imposed jizya. Shivaji told the Emperor that Shah Jahan, Jahangir and Akbar could also have levied this tax but they did not give place to bigotry in their hearts.”
He said this message is particularly relevant at a time when India risks a “blowback” from the turmoil in parts of Asia and Africa.