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End vigilantism, protect institutions: President Kovind in R-Day eve speech

President bats for a society where one can disagree with another view even with a historical context without mocking the dignity of others

Aditi Phadnis  |  New Delhi 

President Ram Nath Kovind addresses the nation on the eve of Republic Day in New Delhi (Photo: PTI)

Reminding Indian citizens of the responsibility of tolerance even in disagreement, President RN Kovind came down heavily on those who resort to mocking "a fellow citizen's dignity and personal space". This was the nearest the President came to criticising the protests against the film 'Padmaavat' and other vigilante action. He also asked India to respect institutions, mildly criticising the public airing of differences by some judges of the Supreme Court and said a great nation could only be built by institutions that were 'disciplined'.

Delivering the eve address to the nation ahead of India's 69th republic day, the president said: "A civic-minded nation is built by civic-minded neighbourhoods, whether in our cities or our villages. Where we respect the next-door person's space, privacy and rights. Where we do not inconvenience our neighbours - while celebrating a festival or while resorting to a protest or on any other occasion. Where one can disagree with another viewpoint - or even with a historical context -without mocking a fellow citizen's dignity and personal space. This is fraternity in action." He also endorsed the commitment to the constitution, especially to the rule of law and the rule by law. The President praised the work of voluntary organisations which operate on the principle of philanthropy and sacrifice and said all Indians must ask themselves if they could give up something that they could do without and offer it to someone more needy. Whether it was giving up a gas cylinder or offering blood or deciding to work with tribals or teaching children in remote areas, India had a tradition of building institutions through voluntary interventions that served the greater good.

He added that this could only be done when girls had the same rights and attention as boys, and not just through laws but societal compulsion. He focused on innovation in school education to make it more creative, special attention to those below 35 and new modern applied science including digitisation, robotics, genomics and automation to take India forward. Some echoes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech at could be heard in the President's address where he spoke of the ambitions of young and innovative India. But President Kovind also spoke of the need to respect the sanctity of institutions in the context of the controversy over the differences in the Supreme Court. He said India must strive to have "institutions that respect their fraternal relationship with other institutions. Institutions that maintain the integrity, discipline and limits of their functioning, without compromising on excellence. Institutions that are always more important than the individuals located there. And institutions where the holders and members make every attempt to live up to the office they occupy as trustees of the people." Without naming the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) the President upheld the organisation's commitment to selfless service, commending it as a model to emulate. He said India would always come to the aid of anyone of Indian origin anywhere: this was part of the principle of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. While conceding that 'aberrations' in Indian society existed and had to set right, he said the republic would not come into its own until the rights of those who were socially and economically deprived were ensured.

First Published: Fri, January 26 2018. 00:26 IST