Inspired by Rabindranath Tagore’s epic poem ‘Bharat Tirtha’, welcoming the incoming flow to India from all corners of the world and to be proud of our assimilated history, Pranab Mukherjee has all along stressed the importance of diversity, equality and tolerance towards all beliefs and faiths.
While indirectly condemning the dominant force practicing intolerance and hatred in the crudest manner possible with sole emphasis on a particular religion, Mukherjee boldly batted for pluralism and secularism in his presidential years. He advocated multiplicity of opinions, so as to make India a vibrant democracy.
Mukherjee always pointed out that ensuring happiness and welfare of the people should be the first priority of any ideal state. Common Indians need food, shelter, education, medical care, justice and peace. The sooner the authorities, obsessed with status – moon exploration, flags, gomata, mass yoga, bullet trains – learn a bit from Mukherjee the better it is for the future of the country.
If we really try to imbibe the thoughts propagated by Pranab Mukherjee and the songs of late Bhupen Hazarika (who was also awarded the Bharat Ratna posthumously) raising voice against intolerance, violence, hatred and communalism, perhaps the society will learn to tolerate the cultural and religious diversities and make the world a peaceful one, thereby unifying it through the bond of humanity only.
These two humanitarian real ratnas of Rabindranath Tagore’s dream ideal – an all-embracing Bharat – indeed richly deserved the highest honour.
Mukherjee needs to be also thanked for playing the role of the conscience keeper of the nation even after completion of his glorious innings in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. While the nation can never forget his enlightening speech promoting respect towards diversity, secularism and democracy right on the platform of the RSS last year in Nagpur, recently, in a seminar in the Rajasthan assembly, Mukherjee asked those in power to respect even those who did not vote in favour of the ruling party or front.
Mukherjee emphasized the much-forgotten (or cleverly forgotten) fact that though each and every party holds full right to ask for votes in favour of them prior to polls, as soon as the winning party or combination forms the government, they immediately turn accountable to each and every citizen of the country, irrespective of whether they have voted in favour of the party or not. The power in governance will have to remain accountable to even those who have not exercised their franchise at all, or never care to go to the polling booths.
Unfortunately, this basic fact is not practically adhered to almost anywhere in the country. The attitude of the winning party’s leaders and supporters suggest that a government of a particular religion, caste, linguistic group or political group has got firmly established. In this pathetic situation, it is natural that the government would shamelessly work for the benefit of its core supporters only, and in favour of the dominant demographic group.
Mukherjee rightly pointed out this anomaly. Indeed, irrespective of the ruling front garnering 32 percent or 92 percent of the votes cast (though nobody has even crossed 50 percent in India’s legislative history), the incumbent government should work for all, treating every political and demographic group in an absolutely equal platform.
Ending with a tweet posted by Pranab Mukherjee after receiving the Bharat Ratna: “The Bharat Ratna for me is also indeed an acknowledgement of the millions who strive everyday to make Bharat the diverse, plural, compassionate and inclusive idea that it is.” And, of course, he signed off as ‘Citizen Mukherjee’.
I bow my head to this man of impeccable humility and sense of responsibility towards the nation.