No room for ‘intolerant Indian’, says President Pranab Mukherjee

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India has been since ancient times a bastion of free thought, speech and expression, says Pranab Mukherjee.

Kochi: President Pranab Mukherjee has condemned violators of women and campus hotheads, saying a society or state cannot be considered civilised if its citizens’ behaviour towards women is uncivilised and those in universities propagate a culture of unrest.

Mr Mukherjee was delivering the sixth K.S. Rajamony Memorial Lecture on ‘India@70’ here on Thursday.

The President’s words struck a chord as it came in the wake of heinous attacks on women, especially that of a leading actor in Kochi, and a spate of student agitations, especially fanned by right-wingers, in Delhi.

“When we brutalise a woman, we wound the soul of our civilisation. Not only does our Constitution guarantee equal rights to women but our culture and tradition also celebrate the woman as divine. Protection and safety of our women and children must be a nationwide priority. The acid test of any society is its attitude towards women and children. India should not fail this test,” said Mr Mukherjee. He bemoaned the plight of institutions of higher education. It was tragic to see them caught in the vortex of violence and disquiet. There should be no room in the country for the intolerant Indian, Mr Mukherjee said.

“India has been since ancient times a bastion of free thought, speech and expression. Our society has always been characterised by the open contestation of diverse schools of thought and debate as well as discussion. Freedom of speech and expression is one of the most important fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution. There must be space for legitimate criticism and dissent,” he said.

He said political activists must listen to the people, engage with them, learn from them and respond to their needs and concerns. Lawmakers must never take them for granted. They must focus on the task of law-making and raising of issues of concern to the people as well as finding solutions to their problems, he added.

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