New Delhi, Jun 8: Former President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday spoke about nationalism, pluralism and tolerance before cadres of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) at its headquarters in Nagpur. Pranab Mukherjee told RSS members that India’s multiple faiths and cultures made it tolerant and that the soul of the nation resided in its pluralism and secularism, which is being seen as a strong message to Sangh, the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Also Read - Coronavirus Creates Havoc: 3 MPs, 6 MLAs And Former President Among COVID's VVIP Victims
In the course of a nearly 35-minute speech delivered in English, Mukherjee made it clear that hatred dilutes nationalism and intolerance will dilute national identity. “The soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance. This plurality of our society has come through assimilation of ideas over centuries. Secularism and inclusion are a matter of faith for us. It is our composite culture which makes us into one nation,” he said addressing the third year annual training camp. Also Read - In Absence of Sonia And Rahul, Congress Leaders to Meet Tomorrow to Discuss Organisational Issues
The former President said intolerance diluted nationalism and hate was destroying people. “We celebrate our diversity. These have been a part of our collective consciousness for centuries. Any attempt 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,” Mukherjee. Invoking the vision of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Patel, he said India’s nationhood was not one language, one religion or one enemy. Also Read - Farm Bills Row: 'Black Day of Parliamentary Democracy in India,' Says Congress; Rajnath Assures MSP Won't End | Highlights
Mukherjee later gave a brief history of India till the East India Company’s arrival in the country. He said, “The emergence of Indian state can be traced back to the sixth century BC. For 600 years, there was Muslim rule in India, which was taken over by the East India Company. After the first war of Independence, India was transferred to the estate of the Queen. However, one thing needs to be kept in mind, even after so many rulers, the 5000-year-old continuity of the civilisation remained.”
Mukherjee’s acceptance of the invitation to the event came in for strong criticism from Congress, including his daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee. While the Congress officially maintained silence, its leaders including P Chidambaram, Anand Sharma, Jairam Ramesh and Ahmed Patel were critical of it. However, after his speech, Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala praised Mukherjee for showing “mirror of truth” to the RSS.
“Pranab Mukherjee has shown the mirror of truth to the RSS at RSS headquarters in Nagpur by reminding them of India’s pluralism, tolerance, secularism and inclusiveness as an article of faith and soul of the country,” said Surjewala. “He particularly highlighted the imperative need of freeing the public discourse from all forms of violence – physical and verbal, besides putting compassion, harmony and non-violence as the centre stage of our public life,” he added.
Earlier, Mukherjee, who had strongly denounced the saffron fountainhead during his entire political career, visited the memorial of RSS founder KB Hedgewar and wrote in the visitors’ book: “Came here to pay my respect and homage to a great son of India KB Hedgewarji.”