Speaking on the RSS stage as a chief guest of its event, former President Pranab Mukherjee said that any attempt to define India through “religion, dogma or intolerance” will only dilute the country’s existence.
His keenly-followed attendance at an RSS event, first by any political leader of Congress background, has been a subject of intense consternation within the Congress.
Mukherjee said intolerance will only dilute India’ national identity and Indian nationalism emanated from universalism, assimilation and co-existence.
“In India, we derive our strength from tolerance, and respect our pluralism. We celebrate our diversity,” he said.
“I am here to share my understanding on nation, nationalism and patriotism about our country which is ‘Bharat’,” said Mukherjee, who served as President of India between 2012 and 2017.
“We must free our public discourse from all kinds of fear and violence” he said.
Addressing an RSS event here, he further 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’.
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.
Those present at the event also included former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri’s son Sunil Shastri, as also Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s nephew Ardhendu Bose along with his wife and son.
Earlier in the day, Mukherjee described Hedgewar as a “great son of Mother India’ as he visited the birthplace of the RSS founding Sarsanghachalak.
“Today I came here to pay my respect and homage to a great son of Mother India,” Mukherjee wrote in a visitor’s book at Hedgewar’s birthplace ahead of his much-anticipated speech at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur.