For the second time in less than a fortnight, President Pranab Mukherjee has referred to growing incidents of intolerance, this time expressing the “apprehension whether tolerance and acceptance of dissent are on the wane” in the country.
Underlining that “humanism and pluralism should not be abandoned under any circumstance”, the President greeted people on the eve of Durga Puja celebrations and said he hoped that “Mahamaya, the combination of all positive forces, would eliminate the Asuras or divisive forces”.
A Rashtrapati Bhavan release, headlined “Is tolerance and acceptance of dissent on the wane, questions the President”, quoted Mukherjee recalling the teachings of Ramakrishna Paramhansa’s Jato Mat Tato Path: “As there are a number of beliefs, there are a number of ways”.
The President was speaking Monday in Birbhum district of West Bengal at a function organised by Nayaprajanma, a local weekly newspaper, and Suri Sabujer Abhijan, a cultural organisation. He will be at his ancestral house in Kirnahar for the Puja.
“Assimilation through receiving is a characteristic of Indian society. Our collective strength must to be harnessed to resist evil powers in society,” he said.
He said Indian civilisation had survived for 5,000 years because of its tolerance. “It has always accepted dissent and differences. A large number of languages, 1,600 dialects and 7 religions co-exist in India. We have a Constitution that accommodates all these differences,” he said.
On October 7, speaking at a function at Rashtrapati Bhavan where he was presented a coffee table book ‘The Nationalist President — Pranab Mukherjee’, the President said: “We should not allow the core values of our civilisation to wither away. Over the years, our civilisation has celebrated diversity, plurality and promoted and advocated tolerance. These values have kept us together over the centuries.”
“Many ancient civilisations have collapsed but the Indian civilisation has survived because of its core civilisational values and adherence to them. If we keep them in mind, nothing can prevent our nation from forging ahead. Indian democracy is a marvel and we must celebrate, preserve and promote its strengths,” he said.
A day later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, breaking his silence on the debate over the Dadri lynching incident, said there could not be a bigger guiding principle, thought and direction than the message from the President.
Addressing a BJP rally in Nawada in Bihar, Modi said: “People are making… ulte-seedhe byaan for rajneeti (all kinds of statements are being made for the sake of politics). Don’t listen to them. Even if Narendra Modi says something like that, don’t listen. Desh ko ek rehna hai. Ekta, shanti, sadbhavna, yahi Bharat ko aage le jayegi (The country has to remain one. There has to be unity, peace and harmony. Only these can take Bharat forward).”
“We all have to follow the path (shown by the President), only then can we have any standing in the world,” the Prime Minister said, referring to the President as Pramukh Mukhia of the country.