When President Emeritus Pranab Mukherjee announced that he would, in fact, accept the invitation from the RSS and be the chief guest of a valedictory function, the Indian media went on over-drive. The political landscape was all-shaken up. The reactions in the mainstream media were amusing, annoying, distasteful, and shallow, all at the same time. The misinformation machines of the social networks spewed their own brands of venom and vomit. It was all so off-putting that I kept my TV turned off for the entire evening, simply because I wanted to stay away from the constant re-hashing, regurgitation, sniper attacks, low-brow one-liners following (and probably during) the ‘live telecast’of Mr Mukherjee’s speech .
The full text of the speech, now available on your handy mobile phone, is enough to tell you the reason why the former President accepted the invitation of the ‘enemy’.
“The soul of India lies in secularism and tolerance…Secularism and inclusion are a matter of faith for us … Indian 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 1600 dialects in their everyday lives, practice 7 major religions, belong to 3 major ethnic groups, Aryans, Mongoloids, and Dravidians, live under one system, one flag and one identity of being ‘Bharatiya’ and have ‘No enemies’. That is what makes Bharat a diverse and united nation.”
Pranab Mukherjee has led by example. No matter how reprehensible the ideology of certain right-leaning fundamentalist groups such as the RSS may be, Mukherjee chose to respect their invitation engage with them in dialogue, rather than shun or insult them.
In essence, his speech will go down as one of the finest written in Indian history. In it one finds the beautiful line, “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”.
And what a lesson that is my countrymen (and womyn)!