While anger against the bitter ‘pandemic’ of corruption is legitimate, it cannot become an excuse for an ‘assault’ on democratic institutions, President Pranab Mukherjee has said.
In his maiden address to the nation as President on the eve of Independence Day, Mr. Mukherjee (who was the chief trouble shooter of the UPA) dwelt at length on the right to protest without endangering democratic polity.
“When authority becomes authoritarian, democracy suffers; but when protest becomes endemic, we are flirting with chaos. Democracy is a shared process.” The recent violence in Assam was the other major theme of his speech. He said the time had come to ‘revisit’ the 1985 accord worked out by the then Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi, and adapt it to the present conditions in the ‘spirit of justice and national interest.’
Signed by the Centre and student leaders in Assam, the agreement envisaged detection and deportation of illegal migrants from the State. “We need peace for a new economic surge that eliminates the competitive causes of violence.”
Mr. Mukherjee said minorities need solace, understanding and protection from aggression. His observations on protests assume significance in the backdrop of the prolonged agitation by Team Anna on the Lokpal Bill and Baba Ramdev’s protest against the ‘failure’ of the government to take effective measures to unearth black money.
“Our institutions may have suffered from the weariness of time; the answer is not to destroy what has been built, but to re-engineer them so that they become stronger than before. Institutions are the guardians of our liberty,” the President maintained.
Mr. Mukherjee said there must be measures to restore the credibility of those areas of our polity, judiciary, executive and legislature where complacency, exhaustion or malfeasance might have clogged delivery.
The President said Parliament would live by its own calendar and rhythm and sometimes that rhythm sounds a bit atonal but in a democracy there was always a judgment day, an election.
“Parliament is the soul of the people, the ‘Atman’ of India. We challenge its rights and duties at our peril.”