New Delhi, Aug 14 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday denounced “forces of divisiveness and intolerance” as well as attacks on weaker sections and said they needed to be dealt with firmly.
In his fifth Independence Day eve address to the nation, the President also attacked groups and individuals who he said pursued a divisive political agenda that leads to Constitutional subversion.
Without making any specific reference to communal forces or the recent cow vigilantes, Mukherjee said that in the last four years he saw “with some disquiet forces of divisiveness and intolerance trying to raise their ugly head.
“Attacks on weaker sections that militate against our national ethos are aberrations that need to be dealt with firmly.”
But, he said, “the collective wisdom of our society and polity gives me the confidence that such forces will remain marginalized”.
India will celebrate its 70th Independence Day on Monday.
The President pointed out that the Indian constitution was more than a political or legal document and rather an “emotional, cultural and social contract”.
And he quoted former President S. Radhakrishnan as saying: “In an effective democracy, its members should be willing to accept law and lawful authority. No man, no group can be his or its own law giver.”
Democracy, Mukherjee underlined, was not just about elections.
“Disruptions, obstructionism and unmindful pursuit of a divisive political agenda by groups and individuals lead to nothing but institutional travesty and constitutional subversion,” he said.
“Polarizing debates only deepen the fault lines in public discourse.”
Recalling that at the time of Independence, doubts were expressed if India will survive as a democracy, the President said that seven decades later, Indians with all their diversity had proved the critics wrong.
“The strong edifice of democracy built by our founding fathers on the four pillars of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity has withstood several threats from within and without and has grown from strength to strength.”
The President applauded the coming together of the government and the opposition in the just-ended monsoon session of Parliament, saying the passage of the Goods and Services Tax bill showed democratic maturity.
A unique feature of India was “our respect for each other’s cultures, values and beliefs. The very essence of plurality lies in cherishing our heterogeneity and valuing our diversity,” he said.
“In the network environment of today, a caring society can only be developed by harmonizing religion with modern science.”
Calling for scientific temper, he said: “We often celebrate the achievements of our ancient past but it would be wrong to rest on our laurels. It is much more important to look to the future.”
Indians, he said, “must learn to challenge the status quo and refuse to accept inefficiency and slipshod work”.
Mukherjee said that backed by a strong political will, the country must create a future which would economically empower 600 million youth, build a digital India, a startup India and a skilled India.
“India will grow, only when all of India grows. The excluded ones will have to be included in the development process. The hurt and alienated have to be brought back into the mainstream.”
He said India has had remarkable growth in recent times, often growing above 8 per cent per annum over the last decade. “We must build on our strengths, so that this lead can be sustained and furthered.”
The President emphasized the importance of India’s “neighbourbood first policy”. South Asia must carve out a common destiny to march together, he added.
Mukherjee denounced a rise in terrorism across the globe, with its roots in radicalization of people on the basis of religion.
“These forces, apart from killing innocent people in the name of religion, also threaten to disrupt geopolitical divides, which could prove disastrous for world peace.
“The inhuman, mindless and barbaric modus operandi of such groups have been visible in France, Belgium, United States, Nigeria, Kenya and closer home in Afghanistan and Bangladesh recently.
“These forces now pose a danger to the entire comity of nations. The world will have to fight them unconditionally and in one voice.”