On the eve of India's 70th Independence Day, President Pranab Mukherjee raised the issue of the recent attacks on Dalits and minorities, and said that these "need to be dealt with firmly".
In his address to the nation, Mukherjee condemned the forces of divisiveness and intolerance, and said: "Attacks on weaker sections that militate against our national ethos are aberrations that need to be dealt with firmly. The collective wisdom of our society and our polity gives me the confidence that such forces will remain marginalised, and India's remarkable growth story will continue uninterrupted."
Taking on the groups and individuals pursuing a divisive political agenda, Mukherjee said that disruptions, obstructionism and unmindful pursuits by groups and individuals will only lead to "institutional travesty and Constitutional subversion". "Polarising debates only deepen the faultlines in public discourse," he said.
Mukherjee said that the Constitution was not only a political or legal document, but also an emotional, cultural and social contract. Quoting former President Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan's speech made 50 years ago, Mukherjee said: "...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."
He said that the Constitution had clearly defined the duties and responsibilities of every organ of the State, and established ancient Indian ethos for authorities and institutions of the state. "The spirit of the Constitution has to be upheld by adherence to this 'maryada' by the functionaries in the discharge of their duties," he added.
In his fifth address as President, the 81-year-old Mukherjee reminded the nation that respect for different cultures, values and beliefs had held India together for all these years.
"The very essence of plurality lies in cherishing our heterogeneity and valuing our diversity," he said. "India will grow only when all of India grows. The excluded ones have to be included in the development process. The hurt and the alienated have to be brought back into the mainstream."
Other issues addressed
Talking of the political maturity displayed by different political parties during the recently concluded Monsoon Session of Parliament, which also saw the passage of GST Bill, the President said: "Notwithstanding the different hues of political thought, I have seen the ruling party and the Opposition coming together in pursuit of a national agenda of development, unity, integrity and security of the nation. In the just-concluded session of Parliament, the passage of the Constitution Amendment Bill for the introduction of GST amidst non-partisan and quality Parliamentary deliberations is reason enough to celebrate our democratic maturity."
Speaking on the safety and security of women and children, Mukherjee said that each incident of violence on them inflicts a wound on the soul of the civilisation, and that India can't be called a civilised society "if we fail in this duty".
On the recent spike in terror activities, which he claimed had roots in the radicalisation of people on the basis of religion, Mukherjee urged the world to unit to fight these forces in one voice. "These forces, apart from killing innocent people in the name of religion, also threaten to disturb 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," he said.
In the end, he thanked the armed forces, paramilitary and internal security forces for "guarding and preserving the unity, integrity and security of our motherland".
Edited by Shreyas Sharma
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