On the eve of India’s 70th Independence Day, President Pranab Mukherjee warned against the rise of divisive and intolerant forces, in what can be seen as a message for the parties in power.
Mukherjee also asked for firm measures to deal with attacks on weaker sections amid allegations of increasing victimisation of Dalits and minorities, often by fringe elements of the ruling establishment.
Reminding about the duties defined in the Constitution, President Mukherjee in his pre-Independence Day speech asked the stakeholders to uphold the “spirit of the Constitution” and maintain the “maryada (sanctity)” of authorities and institutions of state power.
“In these four years, I saw with disgust forces of divisiveness and intolerance trying to raise their ugly head. Attacks on weaker sections that militate against our national ethos are aberrations that need to be dealt with firmly,” Mukherjee said in what may be his last speech as President on August 14.
A spate of incidents, including attacks on churches, the beef controversy, a Muslim’s lynching on the suspicion that he was storing beef, the suicide of Dalit student Rohith Vemulla and the recent beating of Dalit youth in Gujarat, has raised a number of political storms for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, which has come under increased criticism from the opposition.
“The Constitution has clearly defined the duties and responsibilities of every organ of the state. It has established the ancient Indian ethos of ‘maryada’ as far as authorities and institutions of state power are concerned,” Mukherjee said. “The spirit of the Constitution has to be upheld by adherence to this ‘maryada’ by the functionaries in the discharge of their duties.”
The President hailed the passage of the 122nd Constitution Amendment Bill for the goods and services tax as “reason enough to celebrate India’s democratic maturity”.
“The fact that despite two consecutive drought years, inflation has remained below 6% is a testimony to our nation’s resilience,” he said.
But he also warned against “disruptions, obstructionism and unmindful pursuit of a divisive political agenda by groups and individuals” that might lead to “nothing but institutional travesty and Constitutional subversion”.
“Polarising debates only deepen the fault lines in public discourse,” he said. “The collective wisdom of the society and India’s polity gives confidence that such forces will remain marginalised and India’s remarkable growth story will continue uninterrupted.”