We are witnessing unacceptable rise in intolerance: PM

December 6th, 2008 - 6:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghSantiniketan (West Bengal), Dec 6 (IANS) Expressing deep concern over “an unacceptable rise in intolerance”, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Saturday underlined the nation’s democratic ideals of peaceful coexistence “where we can disagree but still work together”. “Today, we are witnessing an unacceptable rise in intolerance. Our society seems more divided, more angry, and, tragically, more violent,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said while addressing the annual convocation of the Visva Bharati University in West Bengal’s Santiniketan, founded by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore.

“We belong as a nation, to an ancient and tolerant civilisation. We must ourselves be tolerant of those who might think differently, who worship other gods, or speak in a different tongue,” he said.

“It is the fundamental right of all to follow their religion, practise their culture and hold to their views. But it is nobody’s right to deny anyone this right, or to dictate faith and opinions to others. The essence of democratic polity is that we can disagree, but still work together.”

His comments came against the backdrop of the terrorist strikes in Mumbai last month that shook the world.

Asking the students of Visva Bharati to follow the poet’s path, Manmohan Singh said: “Let Gurudev’s ideals as embodied in Visva Bharati be your guide.”

He urged the students to venture into life with the courage of conviction, but also with the wisdom of openness.

“In a letter to Mahatma Gandhi on Feb 19, 1940, a year before his passing away, Gurudev described Visva Bharati as ‘a vessel carrying the cargo of my life’s best treasure’. He hoped that ‘it may claim special care from my countrymen for its preservation’. And Gandhiji assured him that he would do all he could to assure its permanence.

“I am very happy to see that over the decades, Visva Bharati has not been merely preserved, it has grown and evolved, and now occupies a leading place among our centres of learning,” the prime minister added.

Amid a thick security blanket, Manmohan Singh arrived at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International (NSCBI) Airport in Kolkata Saturday morning for a two-day trip of West Bengal and headed for Santiniketan, 136 km away, to attend the convocation of Visva Bharati, of which he is the chancellor.

According to the schedule, he was scheduled to return to Kolkata late in the evening and spend the night at Raj Bhavan there.

On Sunday morning, the prime minister will fly off to Malda district where he is also slated to visit late Congress leader A.B.A. Ghani Khan Choudhury’s residence at Kotwali.

He will then go to Purnea before will leave for New Delhi.

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