Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s December 31 address to the nation, President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday lamented the “unfortunate tendency” to take umbrage at the expression of any view considered hostile, adding the “freedom to doubt, disagree and dispute” must be protected.
With the Prime Minister expected to hit out at detractors of the demonetisation move, Mukherjee utterances are being viewed as a polite reminder to the former. Mukherjee also said patriotism should not result in “blinkered” approaches in interpreting history or a compromise with truth in order to justify an argument of choice.
Asserting that the greatest strength of India is its pluralism and social, cultural, linguistic diversity, he said the country’s traditions have always celebrated the “argumentative Indian and not the intolerant Indian.”
The President made the remarks after inaugurating the 77th session of the Indian History Congress here.
There has been an “unfortunate tendency” in the country from time-to-time to take umbrage at the expression of any view perceived to be hostile to our social or cultural institutions past or present, Mukherjee said.
Similarly, critical appraisals of heroes and national icons of the past have been met with hostility or sometimes even violence, he pointed out. “Freedom to doubt, disagree and dispute intellectually must be protected as an essential pillar of democracy.
Nothing should lie outside realm of discussion and argument and such freedom is vital for the progress in any field especially in a craft like history,” he said. In his address, the President asked historians to be as objective as possible in their approach to history.
Advocating that reason and moderation should be the guide, Mukherjee said, “It is natural to love one’s country and see as much glory in its past as one can detect. But, patriotism should not result in blinkered approaches in interpreting history or a compromise with truth in order to justify an argument of choice.”
“No society is perfect and history must be also seen as a guide on what went wrong and what were the contradictions, deficiencies and weaknesses of the past,” he said.