‘Nationalism is Constitutional patriotism’

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 08 Jun 2018 08:38:48


Special Correspondent,


Former President of India Dr Pranab Mukherjee, while addressing Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) Swayamsevaks at the valedictory function of ‘Sangh Shiksha Varg — Trutiya Varsha’ here on Thursday, gave the message loud and clear: “A dialogue is necessary in democracy not only to balance the competing interests but also to reconcile them. Democracy is our most precious guide towards peace and regeneration from the swamp of poverty.”

Putting to rest the controversy woven around his decision to accept the invite of RSS to attend the programme at Nagpur, Dr Mukherjee said, “Divergent strands in public discourses have to be recognised. The essential prevalence of multiplicity of opinion can be established only through a dialogue to solve complex problem without an unhealthy strife within our polity.” The 25-minute speech of ‘Citizen Mukherjee’, as he likes to call himself now, was interspersed with quotes of Kautilya to Vincent Smith to Lokmanya Tilak to Mahatma Gandhi to Pt Jawaharlal Nehru. Also, he shared his understanding of the concepts of nation, nationalism, and patriotism in the context of India.

Tracing the history since the era of Chandragupta Maurya, Emperor Ashoka, to Gupta dynasty and its collapse, 600 years of Muslim rule, and then British Rule and Independence, the former President of India exhibited his scholarship in history by giving a short account of Indian history. He also described the happenings in 1857 as the ‘First War of Independence’. In 2,500 years of changing political fortunes and conquests, the height of Indian ethos remained unperturbed. Each conquerer added his own synthesis, he said. He quoted a Bengali saying that meant ‘Bharat’ is a rich confluence of all ideologies that have flown in through time like rivers.

Dr Mukherjee, whose long political career has been associated with Congress party, invoked Lokmanya Tilak to stress that Indian nationalism was not bound by boundaries of states, languages, religions. He quoted Mahatma Gandhi and Pt Jawaharlal Nehru and said that nationalism was ideogical fusion of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and not extinction of any culture.

Thanking Sardar Patel for his untiring efforts leading to complete integration of princely states and consolidation of Indian State, the former President of India said that the construct of Indian Nationalism was Constitutional Patriotism, which consisted of shared values and learning from others. “The Constitution is not an instrument of administration, but a ‘magna carta’ for people of India, providing hope and aspiration to people”.

Sharing the ‘truth’ he has ‘internalised’ during 50 years and more in public life, Dr Mukherjee said that soul of India resided in pluralism and tolerance through assimilation of ideas through centuries. Stating that secularism was a matter of faith, he added that composite culture made India great.

Mukherjee said, he was mesmerised when he thought of how people across the length and breadth of the nation spoke countless languages and dialects, practised different religions daily, and still had one Constitution and one identity of ‘Bharatiya’.

Highlighting the need for peaceful co-existence, the former President of India expressed his pain at the ‘manifestation of rage tearing our social fabric every day’. “At the heart of this violence is darkness, fear and mistrust. 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.” He suggested to move from anger, violence and conflict to peace, harmony and happiness.

A respected leader of the nation, Dr Mukherjee called for securing happiness for all to let nationalism flow ‘uninterruptedly and automatically’.

“To lead life with happiness is the basic right of citizens. We may be among the fastest growing countries, but lag in World Happiness Index. State should fight poverty, disease, and deprivation. For, as Kautilya said, in the happiness of the people lies the happiness of King,” he said and stressed that people should let the objective of spreading peace and happiness inform their actions.