Soul Of India Resides In Pluralism And Tolerance, Says Pranab Mukherjee


New Delhi: In a much talked about event while speaking at the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headquarters in Nagpur, former President Pranab Mukherjee said that attempts to define India’s nationhood on the basis of religion would “dilute our nationality.”

He added that “the soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance,” in what some analysts and politicians saw as a strong message to the ideological parent of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Still, Mukherjee’s presence at the Sangh’s HQ in Nagpur, where he paid homage to RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar as “a great son of mother India” and toured the building with the outfit’s chief Mohan Bhagwat and other senior functionaries, was also seen by some others as “bad optics”, especially coming from a man who hold Nehruvian ideologies close to his heart.

Backing Mukherjee, the Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said, “He has shown the mirror of truth to the RSS by reminding them of India’s pluralism, tolerance, secularism and inclusiveness as an article of faith and soul of the country.”

The party added that the visit had caused wide-ranging discussion, comment, concern and even consternation among a large section of Indians, who have an innate belief in the foundational values of democracy, pluralism, diversity of cultures, ethnicity, languages and religious practices.

In the course of a nearly 35-minute speech delivered in English, Mukherjee delved into the concepts of nationhood, nationalism and patriotism; and liberally quoted Jawaharlal Nehru, Rabindranath Tagore, Kautilya, Lokmanya Tilak and Surendranath Banerjee, a former Congress party president during the British Raj.

“Secularism and inclusion is a matter of faith for us. India’s nationhood is not one language, one religion, one nation,” said Mukherjee, a former Congress leader for almost four decades.


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