In his last address to the nation as the Head of State, President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday stressed the need for pluralism and tolerance, saying that the soul of India resides in these values.
He also made a strong pitch for freeing public discourse from violence, both “physical as well as verbal”.
“Multiplicity in culture, faith and language is what makes India special. We derive our strength from tolerance,” Mr. Mukherjee said, asserting that plurality had become an essential part of the country after centuries of assimilation of ideas. The soul of India resided in pluralism and tolerance, he added.
Emphasising that compassion and empathy were the “true foundation” of India’s civilisation, Mr. Mukherjee said, “But 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.”
He contended that only a non-violent society could ensure the participation of all sections of the people, particularly the marginalised and the dispossessed, in the democratic process. “India is not just a geographical entity. It carries a history of ideas, philosophy, intellect, industrial genius, craft innovation and experience,” he said.
Mr. Mukherjee upheld the need to have divergent streams in public discourse.
“We may argue, we may agree or we may not agree. But we cannot deny the essential prevalence of multiplicity of opinion. Otherwise, a fundamental character of our thought process will wither away,” he asserted. He reminded people of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy and said that the creation of an inclusive society had to be an article of faith. The President also stressed the need for financial inclusion for an equitable society, and said that the poorest needed to be empowered.
Mr. Mukherjee emphasised the need for quality education, saying that India’s higher educational institutions needed to be upgraded to world-class levels.
“Our universities should not be a place for rote-memorising but an assembly of inquisitive minds,” he said, stressing the need for “creative thinking, innovation and scientific temper”.
“It calls for the application of logic through discussion, argument and analysis. These qualities have to be cultivated and the autonomy of the mind has to be encouraged,” he added.
Right to happiness
The President also stressed upon the need to protect the environment and the people's right to lead happy lives through good governance, social inclusion and poverty eradication.
“Eradication of poverty would provide a strong boost to happiness. A sustainable environment would prevent damage to planetary resources,” he said.