Lamenting the “unfortunate tendency” to take umbrage at the expression of any view considered hostile, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Thursday that the “freedom to doubt, disagree and dispute” must be protected.
Mukherjee also said patriotism should not result in “blinkered” approaches in interpreting history or a compromise with truth in order to justify an argument of choice.
Asserting that the greatest strength of India is its pluralism and social, cultural, linguistic diversity, he said the country’s traditions have always celebrated the “argumentative Indian and not the intolerant Indian.”
The President made the remarks after inaugurating the 77th session of the Indian History Congress in Thiruvananthapuram.
There has been 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 or cultural institutions past or present, Mukherjee said.
Similarly, critical appraisals of heroes and national icons of the past have been met with hostility or sometimes even violence, he pointed out.
“Freedom to doubt, disagree and dispute intellectually must be protected as an essential pillar of democracy. Nothing should lie outside realm of discussion and argument and such freedom is vital for the progress in any field especially in a craft like history,” he said.
In his address, the President asked historians to be as objective as possible in their approach to history.
Advocating that reason and moderation should be the guide, Mukherjee said, “It is natural to love one’s country and see as much glory in its past as one can detect. But, patriotism should not result in blinkered approaches in interpreting history or a compromise with truth in order to justify an argument of choice.”
“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,” he said.
“An objective pursuit of history, such as our best historians have attempted, requires an impartial mind of a judge and not the mind of an advocate,” the President said.
“We must keep our eyes open for unfamiliar ideas and be ready to consider a range of different inferences or assumptions,” he said.
He also said there should not be any conflict or contradiction between the promotion of regional history and the pursuit of the country’s history as a whole.
Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Opposition leader Ramesh Chennithala alleged that attempts were being made by vested interests to distort history to suit the present government at the Centre.
Mukherjee released the first copy of the proceedings of the Congress by presenting it to the CM.