Kirnahar: President Pranab Mukherjee has yet again come out with an appeal for practicing tolerance and to accept differences while respecting dissent, in remarks that come in the midst of growing intolerance in the country.
"Our civilisation teaches us to promote tolerance, to accept differences and to respect dissent. Therefore, that is the essence which has kept us together.
"Therefore, what I stated, that we should recognise this underlying message and convey it in our actions, day-to-day practices...Whether it should be the part of our civilisation and culture, in our behaviour, in our approach and attitude," the President told NDTV at his home in Kirnahar in West Bengal.
He was asked about his yesterday's strong comments whether tolerance and acceptance of dissent was on the wane in the country and what were his concerns that made him make the statement.
The reason, he said, was that during his visit to the three West Asian countries last week, he was asked about the "chemistry" of India which has a very successful, multi-party parliamentary democracy in a country of so much diversity with various languages, races, religion, customs, beliefs and a huge multitude of people.
"Then I told them perhaps it is the very essence of our civilisation which has kept us around and which has bound us together and we celebrate diversity. It is a part of us. Our civilisation teaches us to promote tolerance, to accept differences and to respect dissent. Therefore, that is the essence which has kept us together," he said.
Greeting the people on the occasion of 'Durga Puja', he said, "let them enjoy the festival and at the same time carry the message of this festival in their day to day lives and practices."
Mukherjee said 'Durga Puja' is not just a festival of Hindus but of all communities. It conveys a message of peace and harmony.
"Durga Puja represents the triumph of truth over untruth, good over evil, light over darkness and knowledge over ignorance. May Goddess Durga guide us on to the path of justice, truth and wisdom. Let us pray to the Universal Mother to instill in us a spirit of brotherhood and love for all.
"May this festival strengthen the moral foundations of our society and turn us away from all that divides and destroys," he said.
The President had said yesterday that humanism and pluralism should not be abandoned under any circumstance and assimilation through receiving is a characteristic of Indian society. "Our collective strength must be harnessed to resist evil powers in society".
The President's strong words, for the third time in a fortnight, come against the backdrop of lynching incident in Dadri in which a Muslim was killed on suspicion of eating beef, and a string of incidents like the one in Mumbai where BJP ally Shiv Sena forced cancellation of a music concert by Pakistani legend Ghulam Ali and talks between Indian and Pakistani cricket board Chiefs and blackened the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni.
The killing of a truck conductor in Udhampur and a man in Himachal Pradesh on suspicion of cow smuggling for slaughter have also raised political temperature in the country that had triggered controversial statements by some BJP leaders.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also endorsed the President's remarks and asked people to ignore rabble rousing by leaders and fringe elements.