New Delhi: Asserting that religion cannot be made a cause of conflict, President Pranab Mukherjee today said “tolerance” and promotion of goodwill between diverse communities needs to be preserved with “utmost care and vigilance”.
In his address to the nation on the eve of 66th Republic Day, the President quoted Mahatma Gandhi, “religion is a force for unity” and said, “we cannot make it a cause of conflict” as wisdom of India always teaches “unity is strength, dominance is weakness.”
He said the Constitution is the holy book of democracy and a “lodestar” for the socio-economic transformation of an India whose civilization has celebrated pluralism, advocated tolerance and promoted goodwill between diverse communities. “These values, however, need to be preserved with utmost care and vigilance,” he said.
The comments of the President came at a time when some right wing parties have been sparking one controversy after another by raising issues like ‘ghar wapsi', eulogiusing Nathuram Godse, pressing for having 10 kids for increasing Hindu population and some ministers making inappropriate comments about minorities.
The freedom inherent in democracy sometimes generates an unhappy by-product when political discourse becomes a “competition in hysteria that is abhorrent to our traditional ethos. The violence of the tongue cuts and wounds people's hearts,” Mukherjee said.
On the issue of India being termed as a “soft power”, he said, “the most powerful example of India's soft power, in an international environment where so many countries are sinking into the morass of theocratic violence, lies in our definition of the relationship between faith and polity. “We have always reposed our trust in faith-equality where every faith is equal before the law and every culture blends into another to create a positive dynamic,” the President said.
Speaking about the menace of terrorism, Mukherjee made a veiled reference about Pakistan saying that the country's “adversaries” will stop at nothing to disrupt India's progress.
The multi-nation conflict has converted boundaries into “bloodlines, and turned terrorism into an industry of evil. “Terrorism and violence are seeping across our borders. While peace, non-violence and good neighbourly intentions should remain the fundamentals of our foreign policy, we cannot afford to be complacent about adversaries who will stop at nothing to disrupt our progress towards a prosperous and equitable India,” he said.
Mukherjee said the country had the strength, confidence and determination to defeat architects of “this war against our people.
“Repeated violations of the ceasefire along the Line of Control and terrorist attacks must get an integrated response through incisive diplomacy and impregnable security mechanisms. The world must join India in fighting the menace of terrorism,” he said.
On the economic issue, the President said 2015 is a year of hope and key economic indicators provide for “much optimism”.
He said five per cent plus growth rates each in the first two quarter of the current fiscal is “healthy sign for an early reversion to the high growth trajectory of 7-8 per cent. Highlighting Gandhi's vision, Mukherjee said the call for ‘Purna Swaraj' was given under his leadership at Congress conclave in January 26, 1929.
He said Gandhi started celebrating January 26, 1930 as Independence Day. “From then on, the Nation took a pledge on this day every year to carry on the freedom struggle till we attained it,” Mukherjee said.
The President said the framework of a Constitution, which was charted in 1950, two years after his martyrdom, that has made India a role model for today's world, was constructed out of Gandhi's philosophy.
He said Constitution's essence lay in four principles: democracy; freedom of faith; gender equality; and an economic upsurge for those trapped in the curse of dire poverty which were made Constitutional obligations.
The country's resolve to eliminate poverty through inclusive development has to be a step in the direction of Gandhi talisman for the country's rulers which said whenever you are in doubt...recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen and ask yourself...will it lead to swaraj for the hungry and spiritually starving millions?, he said.
The President said we must strive for the highest quality in our educational institutions so that we can take our place, within a visible future, among the knowledge leaders of the 21st century.
He also wanted that special stress be laid on the culture of books and reading, which takes knowledge beyond the classroom and frees imagination from stress of the immediate and the utilitarian.
“We must be a creative people, nourished by innumerable, interlinked rivers of ideas,” he said.
The youth must lead the way to mastery of technology and communication in a universe where the cloud has become a library without frontiers, and vast opportunity awaits within the computer in your palm.
“The 21st century is within India's grasp.” the President said.