Need Room for Argumentative Indian, Question Those in Power: Prez
President Pranab Mukherjee speaks during the Ramnath Goenka Memorial Lecture in New Delhi on Thursday. (Photo: PTI)
President Pranab Mukherjee speaks during the Ramnath Goenka Memorial Lecture in New Delhi on Thursday. (Photo: PTI)

Need Room for Argumentative Indian, Question Those in Power: Prez

President Pranab Mukherjee, while laying emphasis on the importance of discussion and dissension in a “healthy democracy”, said that there needs to be room for the “argumentative Indian”, but not the “intolerant Indian”.

“Our Constitution is a testament to the accommodation of our differences within the framework of an overarching idea of India,” Mukherjee said, delivering the first Ramnath Goenka Memorial Lecture on Thursday.

He said that social, cultural, linguistic and racial diversity are central to the bedrock of Indian civilisation and stressed on being “sensitive to dominant narratives, of those who make the loudest noise, drowning out those who disagree.”

That’s why social media and broadcast news have seen angry, aggressive posturing by state and non-state players literally hounding out contrarian opinions.

President Mukherjee said Indian civilisation has always celebrated plurality and promoted tolerance.

“That would be contrary to the spirit of the Constitution of India to the very idea of India,” Mukherjee said.

He said that the need to ask questions of those in power is “fundamental for the preservation of our nation and of a truly democratic society”.

The President went on to say that people here and globally are living in challenging times.

Talking about the role of the media, he said the press will be failing in its duty if it does not pose questions to the powers that be and it will have to simultaneously judge the frivolous from the factual and publicity from reportage.

Mukherjee said the news organisations need to ask themselves how they can find sustainable economic models that will allow them to resist all kinds of pressures and let them perform their role with honesty and transparency.

However, such inquiry should not be blinkered by biases or resisted with a closed mind. Indian history and centuries’ old civilisation is replete with examples of a willingness of the people to, as I have said, ‘doubt, disagree and dispute intellectually’.

Read President Mukherjee’s complete speech here.

(With inputs from PTI)

(The Quint is now on WhatsApp. To receive handpicked stories on topics you care about, subscribe to our WhatsApp services. Just go to TheQuint.com/WhatsApp and hit the Subscribe button.)

Follow our India section for more stories.