DAINIK NATION BUREAU
Former President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday lectured RSS trainees on nationalism saying Indian national identity had emerged from pluralism and any attempt to redefine it in terms of religion would dilute it.
In a 30-minute address at Nagpur, the headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), Mukherjee also spoke of democracy as “not a gift but a sacred trust” and urged the fresh recruits of the RSS to “work for national happiness”.
“India is the world’s fastest growing economy but it ranks very low on the World Happiness Index. You are all young and should work for India’s happiness we have lived in pain for so long. The country deserves happiness,” said Mukherjee after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat had made light of the controversy around the former President’s visit to Nagpur saying, “Sangh will remain Sangh and Pranab Mukherjee will remain Pranab Mukherjee even after today.”
Mukherjee set the tone of his address in the very first sentence saying he was in Nagpur to share his ideas of nation, nationalism and patriotism in context of India.
“Our national identity has emerged through confluence, assimilation and coexistence. Throughout 3,500 years of change of rulers our 5,000 years of civilizational continuity remained unchanged. We derive our strength from tolerance. We accept and respect our pluralism. We celebrate our diversity. Any attempt at defining our nationhood in terms of dogmas and identities of religion, region, hatred and intolerance will only lead to dilution of our national identity,” Mukherjee added.
His address had a message for everyone – for the RSS, which is accused of polarisation, the Congress which was wary of Mukherjee’s visit to Nagpur and for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
For the RSS, Mukherjee spoke of Indian nationalism as equal to pluralism. To the Congress, Mukherjee said, “in a democracy dialogue is essential not just to balance competing interests but also to reconcile them.”
For the PM, Mukherjee quoted Kautilya to say, “In the happiness of the people is the happiness of the king. The state is for the people.”
Earlier, Mohan Bhagwat spoke for nearly half-an-hour and took a dig at some Congress leaders for objecting to Mukherjee’s visit to Nagpur.
“How Pranab ji was invited and why he came is irrelevant. We are all one. No Indian is an enemy of the other. We invited Pranab Mukherjee. He saw the affection in our call and he came. This does not change either the Sangh or Pranab Mukherjee,” Bhagwat said opening the valedictory function where 707 people passing the rigorous third year RSS training passed out today.
Earlier, Mukherjee paid glowing tributes to the Sangh founder KB Hedgewar saying, “I came here today to pay my homage and respect to a great son of Mother India KB Hedgewar.”
Accompanied by RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, Mukherjee wrote his tributes in the Sangh visitors’ book after he visited the room where RSS was founded on Dussehra day in 1925 by KB Hedgewar.
In first reactions to Pranab Mukherjee at RSS headquarters, senior Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said, “The images of Pranab-da, veteran leader and ideologue, at RSS headquarters have anguished millions of Congress workers and all those who believed in pluralism, diversity and the foundational values of the Indian Republic.”