President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday again stressed that the spirit of tolerance is what makes us Indians. Speaking at the Ramnath Goenka Lecture in New Delhi, the outgoing president said Indians need to choose between defining ourselves as a nation of vibrant or partisan views. “There should always be room for the argumentative Indian and not intolerant Indian.”
In an apparent reference to incidents of intolerance and communal violence across the country, Mukherjee said, “complex issues are being reduced to binary opposites, resulting in polarisation.”
“Discussion and dissension is crucial for a vibrant democracy. Spirit of tolerance is what makes us Indians. I have always believed that the bedrock of Indian civilisation has been its pluralism and its social, cultural, linguistic and racial diversity.”
The president also appeared to have put to rest speculation that he will be president for a second consecutive time. “I have exactly two months to go. On July 25, a new President will assume office,” India Today quoted him as saying.
In his address, Mukherjee also dwelled on the importance of the freedom of press and highlighted the importance of verifying facts. “When opinions are deeply divided, objectivity is at a premium. Facts must be never sacrificed to elevate opinion into truth,” the President said.
“Media must be the watchdog, the mediator between the leaders and public. It must raise and create awareness and hold public institution accountable to all its actions or inactions,” he added.
On the use of social media in the realm of governance, Mukherjee cited France and the United States as examples. “The personal communications of the leaders were freely made available for everyone.”