Pranab warns against letting go of India’s core values

“I firmly believe that we cannot allow the core values of our civilisation to be wasted”

Updated - November 16, 2021 05:20 pm IST

Published - October 07, 2015 03:36 pm IST - New Delhi

President Pranab Mukherjee.

President Pranab Mukherjee.

India’s core civilisational values of diversity, tolerance and plurality have kept it united for centuries and that cannot be wasted, warned President Pranab Mukherjee on Wednesday, extemporising at the end of a speech he made at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The President’s stern reminder came in the wake of the recent lynching of 50-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq in an Uttar Pradesh village by a mob that alleged that he had stored and eaten beef. The incident and its aftermath – communally polarising speeches by BJP leaders — has triggered nationwide outrage.

The President’s remarks also come days after Vice-President Hamid Ansari stressed at a seminar on communal harmony at Hardoi in U.P. that it was the state’s responsibility to ensure the right to life of every citizen irrespective of faith or creed, and that a meeting of hearts and minds was essential for India to move ahead.

At a function to mark the release of a coffee table book about him written by New Indian Express Editorial Director Prabhu Chawla, the President – after some light-hearted remarks about his own career — surprised his audience by stressing: “We cannot allow the core values of our civilisation to be wasted…over the years, this civilisation has celebrated diversity, promoted and advocated tolerance, enjoyed plurality.”

India has survived because of its “adherence” to these core civilisational values, he continued, “despite aggression after aggression” and long years of “foreign rule.”

“We must keep that in mind. And if we keep those core values in mind, nothing can prevent our democracy from moving on.”

The President’s comments struck a chord, coming as it did in the wake of the killing in Uttar Pradesh. But political sources pointed out that the President has been consistent in his advocacy of pluralism, tolerance and promotion of diversity. In his address to the nation ahead of Independence Day in 2014 and 2015, as well on the day before Republic Day earlier this year, he underscored this point.

His words on August 14 this year sounded almost prescient: “Our democracy is creative because it is plural, but diversity must be nourished with tolerance and patience. Vested interests chip away at social harmony, in an attempt to erode many centuries of secularism. In an age of instant communication through ever-improving technology, we must remain vigilant to ensure that the devious designs of a few never overcome the essential oneness of our people. For both government and people the rule of law is sacrosanct, but society is also protected by something greater than law: humanity.”

The function was attended by Mr. Ansari, who released the book, and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who described the President as a symbol of Indianness and nationalism, as a person who reflected the broad-mindedness of Indian culture.

Others present included Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah and several MPs.

‘We must be vigilant to ensure that the devious designs of a few never overcome the essential oneness of our people’

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