INDIA at 70

 By: Dr. Kishor Dere
(Independent analyst of International Relations and International Law) 
15th of August 2016 marks the 70th Indian independence day from the British colonial rule. It is time for stock-taking and introspection. The Honourable President of India, Shri. Pranab Mukherjee has rightly lamented the forces of divisiveness and intolerance trying to raise their ugly head. He has hit in the bull’s eye by alluding to attacks on weaker sections that go against India’s national ethos. He was quite right in saying that these are aberrations which need to be dealt with sternly and firmly. President Mukherjee has hoped that the collective wisdom of Indian society and polity would eventually marginalize such regressive forces and thereby India’s remarkable growth story would continue uninterrupted.
Mujkherjee reminded that the safety and security of women and children decides the well-being of the nation and society. Therefore, every incident of violence against a woman or a child inflicts a wound on the soul of the civilisation, said the President. He said in such cases, we cannot call ourselves a civilized society if we fail in our duty to safeguard women and children.
While talking about democracy, the President through his words of wisdom cautioned against equating democracy with “a mere periodic exercise of choices to elect the government”. He said the ‘great tree of liberty requires constant nourishment’ through the institutions of democracy. He strongly disapproved of disruptions, obstructionism and an un-mindful pursuit of a divisive political agenda by groups and individuals that leads to nothing but “institutional travesty and Constitutional subversion”. In his opinion, polarizing debates only deepen the fault lines in public discourse.
President Mukherjee referred to the distinguished Indian philosopher of 20th century, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan who became the first Vice-President and second President of Indian Republic. Dr. Radhakrishnan had said fifty years ago, “We have adopted a democratic Constitution. It helps us to maintain our individuality in the face of mounting pressures for standardized thinking and acting…….. Democratic Assemblies serve as safety valves for social tensions and prevent dangerous explosions. In an effective democracy, its members should be willing to accept law and lawful authority. No man, no group can be his or its own law giver”. Relying on this perceptive analysis by the philosopher king, President Mukherjee said Indian Constitution is not just a political or legal document but it is also “an emotional, cultural and social contract”.  
The President stressed on scrupulously and meticulously adhering to the celebrated democratic principle of checks and balances by various organs of the state. He said the Constitution of India has established the ancient Indian ethos of “Maryada” for authorities and institutions of State power.
He urged the fellow citizens to abide by the values of respect for each other’s cultures, values and beliefs. In other words this is an age-old cherished Indian system of pluralism which protects and promotes heterogeneity and diversity. He called for building a caring society by harmonizing religion with modern science. Alluding to a great saint of modern India, Swami Vivekananda who had observed, “What is needed is a fellow-feeling between the different types of religion, seeing that they all stand or fall together, a fellow-feeling which springs from mutual respect, and not the condescending, patronizing, niggardly expression of goodwill”, Mukherjee called for developing fellow-feeling among all the people.
The Honourable President also reminded us of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s speech 69 years ago on this day. Nehru had said, “…in a nation’s history, moments come when we step out from the old to the new, when the soul of a nation finds utterance…” Mukherjee said we need to realize that such historic moments are not mere “strokes of luck that come upon us by surprise”. In order to reach such great moments, a nation must strive. We must be architects of our own destiny and build the India of our dreams. Mukherjee emphasised that backed by strong political will, we the people of India have to create a future which will economically empower six hundred million youth, build “a digital India, a start-up India, and a skilled India”. He said as we build an India of hundreds of smart cities, towns and villages, we should also ensure that such places are humane, hi-tech and happy places having a technology-driven but compassionate society. Mukherjee called for promoting and reinforcing a scientific temper by questioning our beliefs which incompatible with scientific thinking. He also asked people to challenge the status quo and refuse to accept inefficiency and substandard work. He observed that in a highly competitive atmosphere, “a sense of immediacy and some impatience is a necessary virtue”.
Mukherjee lauded Indian foreign policy for its recent dynamism. He said India has reinvigorated its historic bonds of friendship with traditional partners in Africa and Asia- Pacific regions. He also said India is in the process of forging new relationships based on shared values and mutual benefit with all countries. He reiterated India’s commitment “neighbourhood first policy”, peaceful co-existence and harnessing technology and resources for its economic development. He observed that recent initiatives have enhanced energy security, promoted food security, and created international partnerships to take our flagship development programmes forward.
Mukherjee expressed confidence that all the contemporary challenges can be overcome if one has belief in our innate and inherent capacity as an ancient country. He said after every attack, India’s soul has emerged more powerful and more glorious by neutralizing, assimilating and incorporating new challenges.
President said India through its unique civilizational contribution has time and again shared the message of peace and harmony with the conflict-ridden world. Mukherjee quoted historian Arnold Toynbee who said in 1970, “Today, we are still living in this transitional chapter of the world’s history, but it is already becoming clear that a chapter which had a Western beginning, will have to have an Indian ending, if it is not to end in the self-destruction of the human race”. Toynbee had further added that at the cross-roads of human history, the only way of salvation of mankind is the Indian way. It is indeed a fascinating analysis of the march of human civilisation by one of the greatest historians Arnold Toynbee that needs to be effectively conveyed to diffident and despondent Westernised Indians who are alienated and uprooted from the rich cultural and spiritual soul of India.   
Thus, President Mukherjee’s 2016 Independence Day eve speech is unique in recent times which stresses on inclusive development, peace, harmony, tolerance, democracy, pluralism, spirituality and science. It is actually a vision of joint global family Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam in the era of growing trend towards nuclear family. Let is work towards the laudable goal of uniting all. That will be a true homage to all those known as well unknown, unsung, and unheard of martyrs who sacrificed everything for the noble cause of Indian independence from the yokes of colonial rule.    
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