A concerned President Pranab Mukherjee said on Friday that institutions of democracy in India are under threat, and added that correctives, if any, must come from within.
Addressing the nation on the eve of the 68th anniversary of India's independence from British colonial rule, an apparently anguished Mukherjee, while extending warm greetings to all citizens and all Indians around the world, urged political leaders and their respective parties to think seriously about where they were taking the nation, and what they would leave behind for the next generation.
"It is time for serious thinking by the people and their parties. The finest inheritance needs constant care for preservation. Our institutions of democracy are under stress. The Parliament has been converted into an arena of combat rather than debate," he said.
To substantiate his concern, President Mukherjee said it was time to recall what Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution, had said while making his closing speech in the Constituent Assembly in November 1949.
Quote begins: "The working of a Constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the Constitution. The Constitution can provide only the organs of state, such as the legislature, the executive and the judiciary. The factors on which the working of those organs of the state depends are the people and the political parties they will set up as their instruments to carry out their wishes and their politics. Who can say how the people of India and their parties will behave?" (unquote)
The President said that the Constitution of India had given the most precious gift – democracy –, "which reshaped our ancient values into a modern context and institutionalized multiple freedoms."
"It turned liberty into a living opportunity for the oppressed and impoverished, offered equality and positive discrimination to the many millions, who had suffered social injustice, and instituted a gender revolution that has made our country an example of progress. We abolished archaic customs and laws, and ensured change for women through education and jobs. Our institutions are the infrastructure of this idealism," he added.
"Our democracy is creative because it is plural, but diversity must be nourished with tolerance and patience. Vested interests chip away at social harmony, in an attempt to erode many centuries of secularism," Mukherjee said.
"In an age of instant communication through ever-improving technology, we must remain vigilant to ensure that the devious designs of a few never overcome the essential oneness of our people. For both government and people, the rule of law is sacrosanct, but society is also protected by something greater than law: humanity," he added.
Recalling Father of Nation Mahatma Gandhi's quote, Mukherjee said, "You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."