I am here to talk about nation, nationalism: Pranab Mukherjee at RSS function

Nagpur, June 7: Former President Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday addressed RSS cadres at the outfit’s headquarters in Nagpur on nationalism and patriotism in the context of India. 

Mukherjee opened his speech saying “I am here to share my understanding with you of the concepts of nation, nationalism and patriotism in the context of India”.

“Our national identity has emerged after a long drawn process of confluence and assimilation, the multiple cultures and faiths make us special and tolerant”.

He further said that any attempt at defining our nationhood in terms of dogma and identities or religion, region, hatred and intolerance will only lead to dilution of our identity.

“As Gandhi ji explained, Indian nationalism was not exclusive, was not destructive. Pandit Nehru said, Indian nationalism only comes from a congregation of Hindus, Muslims and all other religions”, Mukherjee asserted.

“Indian nationalism was and is above political, religion and regional inclination. This was the case before Independence and remains to be the truth in the contemporary scenario also. For us democracy is not a gift but a sacred task”.

“Thanks to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel helped merge princely states into India. Nationalism means fusion of all religions. Multiple cultures makes us a special country”, He stated

RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, who spoke before Mukherjee, said the controversy surrounding the Congress veteran attending its event was a “meaningless” debate.

“The Sangh is the Sangh. Pranab Mukherjee will be Pranab Mukherjee. Attending RSS event won’t change his ideology. The RSS event takes place in the same way, year after year. We call dignitaries every year, those who can come and grace the event with their presence. But all the discussion and opposition around who visits us and when, is meaningless”, he said.

Before addressing the event, Mukherjee paid a visit to the birthplace of RSS founding Sarsanghachalak Keshav Baliram Hedgewar.

Mukhejee’s speech here had generated a lot of controversy as his daughter and Delhi Congress spokesperson Sharmistha Mukherjee hit out at him, saying the Sangh Parivar is already calling his visit an endorsement of the saffron ideology.

Mukherjee, who has been in Congress and had been slamming the RSS, attended the valedictory function of the ‘Sangh Shiksha Varg’ at the headquarters of the Sangh fountain head.

Mukherjee had been asked to reconsider his decision to attend an event organised by the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) in Nagpur.

In a series of tweets posted on Wednesday, Sharmishta said that by agreeing to attend the RSS event on Thursday, the former president is giving the BJP and the RSS a chance to plant false stories.

Pranab Mukherjee’s decision to attend the event has drawn much traction with many Congress leaders asking Mukherjee to reconsider his decision.

Writing on Twitter, Sharmistha said his [Pranab Mukherjee’s] “speech will be forgotten” but the “visuals will remain”.

She hoped that the former president will realise how the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) “dirty tricks department” works and said that with his visit, he was giving the BJP and RSS “full handle to plant false stories”.

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has said that since Mukherjee has accepted the invitation, he should go and tell the RSS “what is wrong” in their ideology.

Some Congress leaders have urged him not to attend the event in the “interest of secularism”.
West Bengal Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury and senior Congress leader V Hanumantha Rao too had urged Mukherjee not to attend the event.

“I am really surprised to hear about the decision of Pranab Mukherjee to attend RSS’s programme in Nagpur. Just like any other Congressman, I am really astonished to hear about it,” said Chowdhury.

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