Mr Mukherjee, 81, who will move from the 340-room sprawling presidential residence to a bungalow.
New Delhi: In his farewell address to the nation, India’s 13th President Pranab Mukherjee chose to remind people of the idea of a secular, inclusive, India that stands threatened today.
The soul of India, he said, “resides in pluralism and tolerance” and the nation must free its public discourse from “all forms of violence, physical as well as verbal”.
“There are divergent strands in public discourse. We may argue, we may agree or we may not agree. But we cannot deny the essential prevalence of multiplicity of opinion. Otherwise, a fundamental character of our thought process will wither away,” said on Monday. He will hand over charge of the nation’s highest office to Ram Nath Kovind today.
“Every day we see increased violence around us. At the heart of this violence is darkness, fear and mistrust. We must free our public discourse from all forms of violence, physical as well as verbal. Only a non-violent society can ensure the participation of all sections of the people, especially the marginalised and the dispossessed in the democratic process,” he said. Compassion and empathy are India’s true foundation, he added.
Summing up his five years in Rashtrapati Bhavan, Mr Mukherjee said he was “overwhelmed” by gratitude to the people for their trust in him. “I have received much more from the country than I have given. For that, I will remain ever indebted to the people of India.”
Mr Mukherjee, 81, who will move from the 340-room sprawling presidential residence to a bungalow today, said he had tried to spread happiness to a few villages in the neighbourhood in the last five years.
“When I speak to you tomorrow, it will not be as the President but as a citizen — a pilgrim like all of you in India’s onward march towards glory,” he said. “The journey continues,” he said. In his tenure, Mr Mukherjee promulgated or re-promulgated 26 ordinances, commuted four mercy petitions and rejected 30, second only to R. Venkatraman, who rejected 45 mercy pleas.
He also oversaw the conversion of the heritage building — the Carriage Halls and the Stables — earlier used for horses and to house buggies, into a state-of-the-art museum.