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Posted at: Jun 10, 2018, 12:12 AM; last updated: Jun 10, 2018, 12:12 AM (IST)

Pranab’s bid to define nationalism

K. Natwar Singh
AS I PLEASE
K. Natwar Singh
Former President took his decision after due consideration, ignoring criticism that appeared in newspapers, on TV channels. His daughter too was upset

By K. Natwar Singh

Former President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to the headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in Nagpur is turned out to be the event of the month. He was invited by RSS head Mohan Bhagwat to be the chief guest at the graduation parade of Sangha Shiksha Varg-— Tritiya Varsh.

An acute controversy was generated when the word got out that Mukherjee would be the guest at the RSS event. Several, lightweight Congress men were over active in dragging the former President over a pit of red hot coals. Now, they have egg on their faces. Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi acted wisely as they didn’t comment on Mukherjee’s visit.

Pranab Mukherjee is no spring chicken. He took his decision after due consideration, ignoring criticism that appeared in newspapers, on TV channels. His daughter too was upset. By temperament, he is a combative individual with a short fuse.

In his welcome speech, Bhagwat walked on thin ice. He did so with aplomb and verbal skills. He stuck to his religious priorities, without giving offence to his secular and open-minded guest. “Hindus are not just a majority. They are answerable for the country’s future.” He recalled that the RSS founder, Sarsanghchalak Keshav Baliram Hedgewar, was not rigid about a single way of thought. He said, “It is a part of the culture to accept diversity and allow people to follow their own way of thinking.”  Not the usual didactic overkill. 

Normally a speech by the RSS chief would not take more than a few minutes of TV coverage. On June 7, for over two hours he was shown on every TV channel. What a windfall! Bhagwat has every reason to be satisfied with Mukherjee’s 34-hour stay in Nagpur.

The ex-President gave his audience a lesson on Indian history. His theme was, “The concept of nation, nationalism and patriotism”. He paid tributes to Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi and mentioned quotes from Jawaharlal Nehru’s Discovery of India. Nehru had written, “I am convinced that nationalism can only come out of the ideological fusion of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and other groups in India. That does not mean extinction of any real culture of any group, but it does mean a common national outlook, to which other matters are subordinated.”

The most important part of Mukherjee’s speech came half way through his oration. This will be remembered for a long time. “The soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance. This plurality of our society has come through assimilation of ideas over centuries. Secularism and inclusion are a matter of faith for us. It is our composite culture which makes us into one nation. India’s nationalhood 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, practise seven major religions, belong to three major ethnic groups- Aryans, Mongoloids and Dravidians, live under one system, one flag and one identity of being “Bhartiya” and have no enemies. That is what makes Bharat a diverse and united nation.”

Mukherjee also called Hedgewar “a great son of Mother India”. He, thus, put him in the same league as Gandhi, Patel, Rajaji and Nehru. 

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Murphy’s Law is applicable to recent events in Karnataka following the Assembly elections. The Murphy’s Law says: If something could go wrong, it almost eventually will, sooner or later. Dr BR Ambedkar, in a speech in the Constituent Assembly, said, “Constitutionally, morality is not a natural instinct. It has to be cultivated. Democracy in India is only a top dressing on the Indian soil, which is essentially undemocratic.” Is present-day Karnataka proving Babasahib right?

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