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Any attempt to define India through religion, intolerance will dilute its existence – Pranab

By PTI Updated: Jun 08, 2018 12:30 am
Former president Pranab Mukherjee with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat at the closing ceremony of ‘Tritiya Varsha Sangh Shiksha Varg’, an (RSS) event to mark the conclusion of a three-year training camp for Swayamsevaks, in Nagpur on Thursday, June 07, 2018. (PTI)

Nagpur, June 7 (PTI): Former President Pranab Mukherjee today warned that any attempt to define India through “religion, hatred, dogmas and intolerance” will dilute our existence and said public discourses must be freed of all forms of violence, as he addressed an RSS event despite criticism by the Congress and his family.

Asserting that India’s identity has emerged through a long-drawn process of confluence, assimilation and co-existence, Mukherjee, in a strong-worded speech on ‘nation, nationalism and patriotism’ in context of Bharat, said India’s soul resides in pluralism and tolerance.

Mukherjee’s message to hundreds of ‘pracharaks’ and top-brass of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which is often described as a Hindu right-wing organisation, was described as a ‘mirror of truth to the RSS’ by the Congress, whose several leaders have so far been critical of his decision to attend the event here at the Sangh headquarters.

At the same time, the Hindutva leaders including S Gurumurthy said Mukherjee talked about nationalism not being limited to any religious identity, which was the same message delivered by the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.

In an apparent reference to the ‘one-nation-one-culture ideology’ often identified with the RSS, Mukherjee said India’s nationhood is not “one language, one religion and one enemy”.

“It is ‘perennial universalism’ of 1.3 billion people who use 122 languages and 1600 dialects…practice seven major religions… live under one system, one flag and one identity of being Bhartiya and have ‘no enemies’. That is what makes Bharat a diverse and united nation,” he said.

Mukherjee, who served as President of India between 2012 and 2017, said, “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.”

In remarks that come amid an outrage over incidents of rapes including of minors, he talked about “soul of India” getting wounded, every time a child or woman is brutalised and “manifestations of rage are tearing our social fabric”.

Mukherjee said only “a non-violent society” can ensure the participation of all sections of people in the democratic process, especially the marginalised and dispossessed.

“We must move from anger, violence and conflict to peace, harmony and happiness,” he said.

Mukherjee also talked about thousands years of Indian history, including the rules of various dynasties, Muslim invaders, a mercantile company and then the British empire.

He quoted from works of Jawahar Lal Nehru, Rabindra Nath Tagore, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and others and praised Sardar Vallab Bhai Patel for uniting India by bringing the princely states into the main fold.

Before the former president spoke, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said the debate over Mukherjee’s decision to attend the RSS event was “meaningless” and no one is an outsider for his organisation.

Mukherjee’s decision to attent the RSS event has already triggered a major political slugfest with several Congress leaders criticising his decision.

While senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel expressed his disapproval at Mukherjee visiting the RSS headquarters, the former president’s daughter Sharmistha said her father was giving the BJP and the Sangh a handle to plant false stories with his decision to speak at the event.

Speaking ahead of Mukherjee’s speech, Bhagwat said Mukherjee will remain what he is and the Sangh will remain the Sangh even after the event.

Bhagwat said his organisation wants to unify the entire society and no one was an outsider for it.

People may have different views but they are all children of mother India, he said.

Bhagwat said the Sangh has inviting prominent people to its event every year.

Those present at today’s event also included former prime minister Lal Bahadu Shastri’s son Sunil Shastri, as also Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s nephew Ardhendu Bose along with his wife and son.

Earlier in the day, Mukherjee described Keshav Baliram Hedgewar as a “great son of Mother India’ as he visited the birthplace of the RSS founding Sarsanghachalak.

“Today I came here to pay my respect and homage to a great son of Mother India,” Mukherjee wrote in a visitor’s book at Hedgewar’s birthplace ahead of his much-anticipated speech at the RSS headquarters here.

The Sangh describes itself as a nationalist and cultural organisation rather than a political or religious one. It was founded by Hedgewar , on September 27, 1925 on Vijayadashami day at his house here.

The name ‘Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’ was selected for the organisation on April 17, 1926 from a list of four names — Jaripatka Mandal, Bharat Uddharak Mandal, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

By PTI Updated: Jun 08, 2018 12:30:49 am