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“I am here to share my concept of nation, nationalism and patriotism in the context of India. Our national identity has emerged after a long process of confluence and assimilation, the multiple cultures and faiths make us special and tolerant,” he said.
Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat underlined RSS’s commitment to “unifying” society and that the imprint of Indian culture can be seen on all Indians. His comments seemed intended to take away some of the sting on the former President’s remarks on the need to preserve and celebrate diversity. At the end of the function, Mukherjee stood up with others as the RSS flag was lowered but did not join the “salute”.
Mukherjee’s decision had drawn criticism from Congress and the Left while his daughter Sharmistha Mukherjee, who is a Delhi Congress spokesperson, had also tweeted against the visit. Those in the know of his visit, however, insisted that Mukherjee was no longer bound to seeing issues through a political or partisan prism as his active association with party politics ended after he became President in 2012.
Mukherjee, associated with Congress for almost six decades, evoked Gandhi, Nehru, Radhakrishnan and Sardar Patel in the address and referred to the significance of the Constitution.
“Gandhiji explained that Indian nationalism was not exclusive nor aggressive nor destructive. It was this very nationalism that Pandit Nehru so vividly expressed in the book ‘Discovery of India’ he wrote. I am convinced that nationalism can only come out of the ideological fusion of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and other groups in India,” he said.
He did not refer to the reservations some Congress and Left members expressed at his decision to visit the RSS headquarters and share the dais with Mohan Bhagwat.