Joining the debate on the issue of “rising intolerance”, former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh asserted that suppression of right to dissent cannot be allowed. Expressing his deep concerns over murder of thinkers and recent incidents of hate in the country, Dr. Singh said the assault or murder of thinkers cannot be justified on any ground and respect for diversity, secularism and pluralism are vital for the India’s survival.
Dr. Manmohan Singh was speaking after inaugurating the two-day national conference on the theme – “No peace without freedom; No freedom without peace: Securing Nehru’s legacy and India’s future: Agenda for Action” organised by Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Contemporary Studies (RGICS), New Delhi, ahead of the 125th birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru.
“The assault or murder of thinkers are no more than disagreement with their views or because of the food they eat or their caste cannot be justified on any ground. Nor can be suppression of the right to dissent be allowed,” Dr. Manmohan Singh said.
Strongly speaking against the recent incidents, which has brought the debate on intolerance at the forefront, Dr. Singh described them as “blatant violation of right to freedom of thought, belief, speech and expression by some violent extremist groups”.
“All right thinking persons in our country have condemned such incidents in the strongest terms as an assault on our nationhood…Unity and respect for diversity, secularism and pluralism are vital for the survival of the republic,” the former Prime Minister added while addressing the event in New Delhi.
The two-day meet is being held in the backdrop of the series of protest against what is termed as “rising intolerance”. It all began with the return of Sahitya Akademi awards by more than 40 legendary authors and multi-lingual authors after the incidents of lynching of a 50-year-old man in Dadri over the rumours of beef eating and the murder of rationalist thinkers.
Former Prime Minister, who is among the senior-most leaders of the Congress party, said that all right-thinking people have condemned such incidents in the strongest term as an “assault on the nation”. Saying that the suppression of dissent or free speech poses a grave danger for economic development, he added “There can be no free market without freedom…. Freedom is a foundational value that lies at the heart of the Nehruvian idea of India.”
Terming secularism as an “article of faith” for the Indian Republic, Dr. Singh said that Secularism protects the fundamental freedom of every citizen to faith, belief and worship.
“Religion is a private matter in which no one, including the State, can interfere except to the extent necessary to protect the freedom of others. In a secular republic, no religion can become the basis of public policy or governance, nor can any religious belief be imposed on anyone,” he remarked.
He also emphasised that it is necessary for all people who support the Nehruvian idea of India as a liberal, secular, social democracy to now “come together and pool their wisdom, knowledge and experience to defend the core values of our republic.”
Rejecting the campaign that the ideas and thought of the first Prime Minister were not relevant today, he said, “What greater tribute can there be to Nehru than that, over half a century after his passing, the centre stage of Indian politics is reserved for him? That not a moment passes when his ideas are either celebrated or opposed?”
(With inputs from the PTI)