"India’s pluralism and diversity is our greatest strength"
Noting that multiple philosophies have competed with each other peacefully for centuries in our country, President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday said book fairs needed to remind everyone that our history and traditions had always celebrated the argumentative Indian and not the intolerant Indian.
Inaugurating the New Delhi World Book Fair-2014 at Pragati Maidan here, Mr. Mukherjee, a known bibliophile, said Freedom of Speech was one of the most important Fundamental Rights guaranteed by the Constitution.
“An international book fair of this magnitude is one of the best manifestations of India’s liberal, democratic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and secular society where competing ideas and ideologies have equal space. These values constitute the essence of India. We must do everything possible to preserve, protect, promote and nurture these ideals. India’s pluralism and social, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity is our greatest strength and a multiple source of inspiration for every Indian and that we must be uncompromising in rejecting intolerance, prejudice and hatred.”
Presiding over the function, Union Culture Minister Chandresh Kumari Katoch called on parents and teachers to inculcate book reading habit among children as the advent of digital technology had adversely affected the younger generation’s reading habit.
Mussoorie-based Ruskin Bond, who shared the dais with the President and other dignitaries, said he grew up reading Polish writer Joseph Conrad’s books. “He produced some of the greatest books ever written in the English language. So we need to honour Conrad at the ongoing book fair.”
During the inauguration, the celebrated children’s writer said a significant chapter in the Indo-Polish relationship was when the ruler of Jamnagar in Gujarat gave refuge to a large number of Polish refugees.
Looking a trifle embarrassed when his name was announced to speak to the audience comprising foreign dignitaries and children from different schools, Mr. Bond said: “I do not have any right to be here at the dais.”
Mr. Bond was the main speaker at the inauguration as the theme of the nine-day book festival is “Kathasagara: Celebrating Children's Literature”.