THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The freedom to doubt, disagree and dispute intellectually must be protected as an essential pillar of democracy, President Pranab Mukherjee has said at a time divisive politics and intolerance, especially on social media, is being widely debated.”It is natural to love one’s country and see as much glory in the past as one can detect. But patriotism should not result in blinkered approaches to interpreting history or a compromise with truth in order to justify an argument of choice,” Mr Mukherjee said, addressing the Indian History Congress in Thiruvananthapuram this evening.
The President called India’s pluralism and social culture, linguistic and religious diversity its greatest strength. “Our tradition has always been the argumentative Indian and not the intolerant Indian,” he stressed.The President also spoke about an “unfortunate tendency in the country from time to time to take umbrage at the expression of any view perceived to be hostile to our social and cultural institutions past or present.”A critical appraisal, he said, of heroes and national icons have been met with hostility and sometimes even violence.
He said: “Nothing should lie outside the realm of reason, and therefore of discussion and argument. Such freedom is vital for progress in any field, especially a calling and a craft like history.”Asserting that multiple views, thoughts and philosophies “have competed with each other peacefully” for centuries in India, Mr Mukherjee asserted that freedom of speech is one of the most important fundamental rights guaranteed by the constitution.”No society is perfect and history must be also seen as a guide on what went wrong and what were the contradictions, deficiencies and weaknesses of the past,” the President said.”The study of history will be of use to us in shaping our conduct today only if undertaken with objectivity and my impression is that mainstream Indian historiography has been quite conscious of this responsibility.”