Nagpur: Putting all speculations to rest, former President Pranab Mukherjee addressed RSS swayamsevaks at their headquarters in Nagpur Thursday.
“Multiplicity in culture, faith and language is what makes India special” and “we derive our strength from tolerance”, Mukherjee told the gathering which included RSS Sarsanghachalak Mohan Bhagwat.
“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”, he added.
“The soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance… Secularism and inclusion are a matter of faith for us… India’s nationhood is not one language, one religion, one enemy. It is the perennial universalism of 1.3 billion people who use more than 122 languages and 1,600 dialects in their everyday lives, practice 7 major religions… live under one system, one flag and one identity of being Bharatiya and have no enemies,” he underlined.
“For us, democracy is not a gift, but a sacred trust… From our Constitution flows our nationalism. The construct of Indian nationalism is Constitutional patriotism which consists of an appreciation of our inherited and shared diversity; a readiness to enact one’s citizenship at different levels; the ability to self-correct and learn from others.”
With several Congress leaders having criticised former President Pranab Mukherjee’s decision to address RSS cadres, the party said his speech is a “lesson in true Indian philosophy” and asked if the Sangh will accept the “sagacious advice” that pluralism is central to Indian nationalism.
Addressing a press conference after Mukherjee’s speech, Congress spokesman Randeep Surjewala asked, “Does RSS now agree to follow constitutional patriotism, tolerance and secularism? Let RSS and BJP today publicly commit to change its character and thought process, and accept the sagacious advice of its guest.”
Mukherjee’s speech seemed to have come as a relief to Congress that has found itself embarrassed by the veteran leader’s decision to accept RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s invitation. But while the party said he had shown the mirror to the RSS, comments by senior leaders even hours before the event betrayed consternation over the engagement.