President Pranab Mukherjee (File Photo)
President Pranab Mukherjee (File Photo)

Pluralism and tolerance have been the hallmark of Indian civilisation, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Saturday asking people to remain alert to communal tensions rearing its “ugly head” anywhere.

Delivering the Arjun Singh memorial lecture at the Nehru Memorial museum in honour of the Congress veteran, he also stressed that democracy is not all about numbers but also calls for consensus building.

Mukherjee said in a pluralistic democracy, it was important that the values of tolerance, respect for contrary views and patience are inculcated amongst the citizens particularly the youth.

“Pluralism and tolerance have been the hallmark of our civilisation. This is a core philosophy that must continue undeterred. For, India’s strength lies in her diversity.

“Diversity of our country is a fact. This cannot be turned into fiction due to the whims of a rigid few. Plurality of our society has come about through assimilation of ideas over centuries,” Mukherjee said.

He said India derives its strength from tolerance. It has been part of its collective consciousness for centuries and it was the only way it will work well for the country.

“There are divergent strands in public discourse. We may argue. We may not agree. But we cannot deny the essential prevalence of multiplicity of opinion. Otherwise, a fundamental character of our thought process will wither away,” he said.

Quoting Mahatma Gandhi, Mukherjee said at times, communal harmony will be put to test by vested interests.

“We must, therefore, remain alert to communal tensions rearing its ugly head anywhere. Rule of Law must form the sole basis for dealing with any challenging situation. It is our democratic underpinning that must prevail at all times,” he said.

The function was attended by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Abdullah and host of
Congress leaders.

Mukherjee said democracy is not all about numbers but also calls for consensus building.

“A phenomenon seen in recent times is the way the common man is engaged with affairs of the nation. While we must wield no space to anarchy, efficient democratic machinery must have the means and wherewithal to absorb public opinion for formulation of sound policies,” he said.

Earlier, Gandhi in her speech expressed apprehension that democracy and secularism of the country was in danger.

Gandhi recalled her association with Singh and said she misses him wherever she has to take a tough decision.

The President also that Singh was one leader whose heart and mind was rooted to the ground. He never lost his simplicity to power, nor did he lose his concern for the common man.