Former President Pranab Mukherjee said in Nagpur on Thursday that secularism and inclusion were a matter of faith to the country.
Mr. Mukherjee was participating in the concluding ceremony of the third year ‘Sangh Shiksha Varg’ of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
“Any attempts at defining our nationhood in terms of dogmas and identities of religion, region, hatred, and intolerance will only lead to dilution of our national identity,” he told the gathering of RSS volunteers, members and sympathisers.
“Our national identity has emerged through a long- drawn process of confluence, assimilation, and co-existence. We derive our strength from tolerance. We accept and respect our pluralism. We celebrate our diversity. These have been a part of our collective consciousness for centuries,” he asserted.
Mr. Mukherjee mentioned the contributions of the Indian National Congress, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi to the concept of the modern Indian state and quoted Jawaharlal Nehru.
According to him, the Constitution was “not merely a legal document but a Magna Carta of socio-economic transformation.”
“It represents the hopes and aspirations of billion plus Indians. From our Constitution flows our nationalism. The construct of Indian nationalism is constitutional patriotism, which consists of an appreciation of our inherited and shared diversity. The soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance,” he said.
“Secularism and inclusion are a matter of faith for us. It is the perennial universalism of 1.3 billion people who use more than 122 languages and 1600 dialects, practise seven religions, belong to three major ethnic groups and live under one system,” he said.
Recalling the country’s rich, ancient heritage, he said: “The 5000-year-old civilisation has remained unbroken. In fact, each conqueror and each foreign element has been absorbed to form a new synthesis and unity.
“Divergent strands in public discourse have to be recognised. We may argue, we may agree or not agree but we cannot deny the essential multiplicity of opinion. Peaceful co-existence, compassion, respect for life and harmony with nature form the foundations of our civilisation. Every time a woman or a child is brutalised, the soul of India is wounded. Manifestations of rage are tearing our social fabric. 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. Only a non-violent society can ensure participation of all sections of people in the democratic process, especially the marginalised and the dispossessed. We must move from anger, violence, and conflict to peace, harmony, and happiness.”
Hedgewar ''a great son of Mother India''
Earlier, Mr. Mukherjee visited the birthplace of RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar where he was welcomed by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi.
“Today, I came here to pay my respect and homage to a great son of Mother India,” he wrote in the visitors’ book.