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I Fail To Comprehend Intolerant India, Says Pranab Mukherjee

Former President Pranab Mukherjee stressed on the need for healthy debates on “the kind of nation we want to build.”

Eram Agha | News18.comEramAgha

Updated:August 11, 2017, 11:54 AM IST
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I Fail To Comprehend Intolerant India, Says Pranab Mukherjee
File photo of former President Pranab Mukherjee. (PTI)

New Delhi: Barely a week after demitting office, former President Pranab Mukherjee has spoken out against growing intolerance and said he failed to comprehend intolerant India.

“I can understand the dissenting and argumentative India but fail to comprehend the intolerant India,” said Mukherjee on Thursday evening.

He was speaking at the launch of historian and Trinamool Congress leader Sugata Bose’s book ‘The Nation as Mother and Other Visions of Nationhood’, which has Rabindranath Tagore’s Banga Mata on the cover.

“The depiction of nation as a mother is an emotional and human construct rather than a religious identity,” the former President said.

Mukherjee stressed on the need for healthy debates on “the kind of nation we want to build.”

Incidentally, he was speaking at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, which itself has seen a cultural battle of sorts over the past few years, including a debate around “intellectual intolerance of Nehruvian elite.”

There was a panel discussion on nationalism where Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, Ashoka University vice-chancellor Pratap Bhanu Mehta and historian Seema Alvi took part.

Bose dwelt upon Tagore’s nationalism that believed in plurality and respect for differences in practices and cultures.

“Here was a fascinating man who was patriot. He had deep love for the country. Wrote poems and songs during the Swadeshi movement and yet warned us against the dangers of narrow nationalism imitative of European aggressive nationalism,” he said.

Bose said that he told Prime Minister Narendra Modi to stop the “engines of coercion on their tracks.”

“Tagore believed that we have such social restrictions, which lead us to discriminate against others even based on their food preference. He feared that these prejudices in future find expression in our political organisation and create engines of coercion that would prevent the space for rational difference that are signs of life,” he added.

Tharoor joined in and said “we have a ruling party that tends not to listen to leaders from other parties.”

Talking about Tagore's nationalism and patriotism, Tharoor said, “He found nationalism as something negative and largely reprehensible. It is like organising a band of robbers in the police department.”

The panel also discussed Mahatma Gandhi and his idea of secularism and nationalism. “Gandhi was not a straightforward secularist who did not believe in complete separation of religion from politics, he believed that religion is the ethical basis of religion,” Bose said.

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| Edited by: Ananya Chakraborty
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