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We are witnessing an unacceptable rise in intolerance: Manmohan

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh confers the degree of ‘Desikottama’ on K.G. Subramanyan during the annual convocation of Visva Bharati, Santiniketan, on Saturday.   | Photo Credit: — Photo Sushanta Patronobish

Marcus Dam

“Essence of democratic society is that we can disagree, but still work together”

Santiniketan: “Today, we are witnessing an unacceptable rise in intolerance. Our society seems more divided, more angry, and tragically, more violent,” Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, said here on Saturday — the 16th anniversary of the attack on Babri Masjid and 10 days after the terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

“It is the fundamental right of all to follow their religion, practise their culture and hold their views. It is nobody’s right to deny anyone this right, or to dictate faith and opinions to others,” Dr. Singh said, on the occasion of the Annual Convocation, 2005 and 2006, of the Visva Bharati of which he is Acharya (Chancellor).

“We must ourselves be tolerant of those who might think differently, worship other gods, or speak in a different tongue....The essence of democratic society is that we can disagree, but still work together,” the Prime Minister added.

The convocation was held amid unprecedented security. He spent nearly three hours here and held a meeting with senior officials and faculty members.

Vice-Chancellor Prof. Rajat Kanta Ray, Governor Gopalkrishna Gandhi and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, were present.

“Universities should be liberal, free from narrow-mindedness and bigotry,” Dr. Singh said, while regretting that too much of the country’s higher education “puts emphasis on mainly rearing young men and women for the job market.”

“And even in the pursuit of this limited endeavour, sadly, we see many shortcomings.”

Honoured

The Prime Minister conferred the honorary degree of Desikottama (Doctor of Literature) — the university’s highest honour — on seven eminent personalities.

They were: Habib Tanvir, a stalwart of the thespian arts; Devi Prasad, artist and educationist; Prof. Roddam Narasimha, space scientist; Prof. Amlan Dutta, economist, and Prof. Kalpathi Ganapathi Subramanyan, eminent artist of the Santiniketan School. Prof. Irfan Habib, historian and Prof. Jean Dreze, eminent development economist, were awarded the honour in absentia.

Dr. Singh announced the sanction of Rs. 95 crore for implementing the initial plan prepared by the university in pursuance of the recommendations of a high-level committee that had been set up with a view to restore Visva Bharati to its pre-eminence in the national and international arenas and reaffirm it as a centre of excellence.