Nagpur: Secularism and inclusion are matters of faith for Indians, former President Pranab Mukherjee said today.
Addressing an RSS event here, he said 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. India’s nationhood is not one language, one religion, one enemy,” he said at a gathering attended by RSS top brass and hundreds of ‘pracharaks’.
He also said that in a democracy, informed and reasoned public engagement on all issues of national importance is essential.
“A dialogue is necessary not only to balance the competing interests but also to reconcile them. Divergent strands in public discourse have to be recognised. We may argue, we may agree, or we may not agree. But we cannot deny the essential prevalence of multiplicity of opinion. Only through a dialogue can we develop the understanding to solve complex problems without an unhealthy strife within our polity,” he said.
He told the gathering comprising young graduates that India has lived with pain and strife for long enough.
“You are young, disciplined, well trained and highly educated. Please wish for peace, harmony and happiness. Our Motherland is asking for that. Our Motherland deserves that,” he said.
Mr Mukherjee, while explaining his idea of ‘nation, nationalism and patriotism’ in the context of India, said the country’s nationalism flows from our Constitution.
“The construct of Indian nationalism is constitutional patriotism, which consists of an appreciation of our inherited and shared diversity; a readiness to enact one’s citizenship at different levels; the ability to self-correct and learn from others,” he said.
Delving into history, he said India was a state long before the concept of the ‘European nation state’ gained ground after the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.
He said the model of a defined territory, a single language, shared religion and a common enemy is the model which led to the formation of various nation states in Europe.
“On the other hand, Indian nationalism emanated from universalism, the philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’,” he said.
Throughout 2,500 years of changing political fortunes and conquests, the 5,000-year-old civilisational continuity remained unbroken.
“In fact, each conqueror and each foreign element had been absorbed to form a new synthesis and unity,” he said, citing works by Rabindranath Tagore and Jawaharlal Nehru.