In contrast to Pranabda ‘s idealism, was the pragmatism of Mohan Bhagwat when he said, “Irrespective of our diversity, we have to know that our ancestors were the same.”
Ultimately, it was a case of much ado about nothing. The hype over the much-hyped fear of the Congress accepting the RSS’s invitation to attend an annual function evaporated at the end of that event. In fact, the Congress cheered that Pranab Mukherjee’s speech had mentioned that “The soul of India resides in pluralism and tolerance” and that “India’s Nationhood is not one language, one religion, one enemy.” The Congress deemed those sentences as a big slap to the RSS’s Hindu ideology which they hate so much. Perhaps they also thought that the two sentences were a pat and an applause for the Congress’s secularism, whatever that word means to them.
There’s the mention of a name which has rarely, if ever, been uttered by the Sonia Gandhi generation’s Congress.
That cheer from the Congress to Mukherjee’s speech is an evidence of how, under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi, the Congress has become blind to “silent” messaging. They overlooked the fact that 83-year-old Mukherjee, the tallest Congress leader in recent decades, had, prior to his speech, showered flower petals on the RSS by paying a written homage to its founder Dr. Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (1 April 1889 – 21 June 1940), who, after being disillusioned with the politics and policies of the Congress, left that party and founded the RSS in Nagpur in 1925, with the intention of promoting the concept of a united India, rooted in Hinduism ideology. They also forgot that Pranabda not only showered flowers on Dr Hedgewar’s portrait but also paid a written homage to him, calling him “a proud son of Mother India.” And this was repeatedly shown live on Indian television.
Then there’s the mention of a name which has rarely, if ever, been uttered by the Sonia Gandhi generation’s Congress. In Pranabda’s speech at Nagpur on June 7, He lauded Sardar Vallabhai Patel, because of whose efforts “the Princely States merged leading to the consolidation of India.” Ironically, Sardar Patel was bestowed the Bharat Ratna award 41 years after his death in 1950. That award came courtesy of the true patriot, Narasimha Rao, a Congressman who, strangely, was treated very ungraciously after his demise by the Sonia Gandhi brand of Congress.
The Congress also overlooked that in the capsule of history before he dwelt at length on the way our country’s 5000-year-old civilizational continuity was transformed into the present Union of India, Pranabda mentioned Bal Gangadhar Tilak (23 July 1856 – 1 August 1920) as one who “gave voice to the phrase…”Swaraj is my Birthright and I shall have it”. Note that he did not mention Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, always referred to as “the father of the Nation.” And, just in case the Congress of today didn’t know, Tilak was not of the Congress. He only formed a close alliance with many Indian National Congress leaders. He was the first leader of the Indian Independence Movement. The British colonial authorities called him “The father of the Indian unrest.”
An important feature of his Presidential term was his rebuking of intolerance in our society. At least one Presidential address of his was on that issue. Now, in retirement, Pranabda is talking of “tolerance” and not “intolerance.” And, brought a rich and emotional idealism in his speech when he said: “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.”
In fact, sharing “some truths that I have internalized during my fifty-year-long public life, as a Parliamentarian and Administrator,” he told the audience that “India’s 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 ‘Bhartiya’ and have ‘No Enemies‘. That is what makes Bharat a diverse and united nation.”
“Hindus are not just a majority. They are answerable for the country’s future.”
The height of this idealism was his statement that “Divergent strands in public discourse have to be recognized. We may argue, we may agree or we may not agree. But we cannot deny the essential prevalence of multiplicity of opinion. Only through a dialogue can we develop the understanding to solve complex problems without an unhealthy strife within our polity.
In contrast to this idealism, was the pragmatism of what Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS Chief, had said in his address preceding Pranabda’s speech.
“Irrespective of our diversity,” he said, “we have to know that our ancestors were the same. Hindus are not just a majority. They are answerable for the country’s future.”
“Diversity is our hallmark. The difference of opinion is natural but it has a certain limit. We must come together for a common goal while keeping our diversity intact. Diversity is beautiful but it has to lead us to unity at the end.”
That is the punch that must make all of us think of solutions; those
solutions which are available in a true democracy in action, regardless of caste, creed and what have you outside that democratic framework in our Constitution.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
His freelancing career began in "The Times of India" with a sports article published when he was a month shy of 20 years of age. He was also a regular political affairs columnist first for rediff.com for five years or so and then shifted to sify.com. He also wrote extensively for niticentral.com "till it stopped publication."
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