23/10/2019 1:40 PM IST

Pranab Mukherjee Concerned Over 'Increasing Violence' In India, Says There Is 'Utter Disregard' For Human Rights

“Today, more than ever, we need to remind ourselves of that unfettering faith the Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, had in Ahimsa and not just tolerance, but mutual respect," the former president said.

PAUL J. RICHARDS via Getty Images
Pranab Mukherjee in a file photo. 

Former president of India and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee said on Tuesday expressed anguish over increasing number of violent incidents in the country and “utter disregard” for human life. 

News18 quoted Mukherjee as saying, “Today, I notice, with great concern, there is an increase in violence arising out of differences. Consequently, our ability to co-exist in harmony has greatly suffered... This type of violence not only perpetuates physical harm but mental, intellectual and socio-economic destruction as well. There is an utter disregard for the life of fellow humans; there is mistrust and hatred; there is suspicion and jealousy.”

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Mukherjee made the remarks while  a lecture at the North East Institute of Advanced Studies on its Foundation Day through video conferencing. 

He said that he felt that the sould of India had been wounded every time a woman or child was brutalised. He said that “manifestations of rage” had torn away at our social fabric. “At the heart of this violence is darkness, fear, and mistrust,” he said according to PTI.

Mukherjee’s remarks come at a time when religious hatred and the divide among people is as deep as ever, where mob lynchings are a regular occurence and those who speak out are often silenced.

During his speech, Mukherjee highlighted that India’s nationhhood was not formed by “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 seven major religions, belong to three major ethnic groups- Caucasians, Mongoloids, and Dravidians live under one system, one flag and one identity of being ‘Indian’ or ‘bhartiya’ and have ‘no enemies’. That is what makes Bharat a diverse and united nation,” Mukherjee said

Stating that the soul of India resides in pluralism and celebration of diversity, he said, “This plurality of our society has come through assimilation of ideas over centuries. Secularism and inclusion are a matter of faith for us. It is our composite culture which makes us into one nation.”

While defining tolerance, Mukherjee highlighted, “Tolerance, as I envision it, is essentially a state of mind. I strongly believe that it is a manifestation of our age-old belief in ahimsa. Ahimsa has been the core of Indian ethos and Mahatma Gandhi has been its most vocal apostle in the modern times”.

“Today, more than ever, we need to remind ourselves of that unfettering faith the Father of our Nation, Mahatma Gandhi, had in Ahimsa and not just tolerance, but mutual respect. Circumstances today have forced us to ask ourselves if we have lived up to the aspirations of the Father of our Nation,” he said.

“We must free our public discourse from all forms of violence, physical as well as verbal. Only a non-violent society can ensure the participation of all sections of people in the democratic process, especially the marginalized and the dispossessed. We must move from anger, violence, and conflict to peace, harmony, and happiness,” he advised.

Mukherjee said in a democracy, informed and reasoned public engagement on all issues of national importance is essential and a dialogue is necessary not only to balance the competing interests but also to reconcile them.

“Divergent strands in public discourse have to be recognised. 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,” he said.

Mukherjee has often question the governments in power through his speeches. Even during his presidency he had said , “The need to ask questions of those in power is fundamental for the preservation of our nation and of a truly democratic society.” 

He had also been critical of demonetisation. 

“Demonetisation, while immobilizing black money and fighting corruption, may lead to temporary slowdown of the economy,” had said President Mukherjee in a video address to Governors and Lieutenant Governors in 2017. “We all will have to be extra careful to alleviate the suffering of the poor which might become unavoidable for the expected progress in the long term.”

(with PTI inputs)