The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the 77th Session of Indian History Congress at Thiruvananthapuram.
Speaking on the occasion, the President said an objective pursuit of history requires an impartial mind of a judge and not the mind of an advocate. We must keep our eyes open for unfamiliar ideas and be ready to consider a range of different inferences or assumptions.
This necessarily bars intolerance of contrary opinions or judgements. There has been an unfortunate tendency in our 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. Similarly, critical appraisals of our heroes and national icons of the past have been met with hostility and sometimes even violence.
The freedom to doubt, disagree and dispute intellectually must be protected as an essential pillar of our democracy. Nothing should lie outside the realm of reason, and therefore of discussion and argument. Such freedom is vital for progress in any field, especially a calling and a craft like history.
The President said it is his firm conviction that India’s pluralism and social, cultural, linguistic and religious diversity are our greatest strength. Our traditions have always celebrated the ‘argumentative’ Indian not the ‘intolerant’ Indian.
Multiple views, thoughts and philosophies have competed with each other peacefully for centuries in our country and freedom of speech is one of the most important fundamental rights guaranteed by our Constitution.
He said the Indian History Congress has a creditable record of standing up for freedom of expression and asking historians to be faithful to the cause of reason. It has often taken cudgels against distortions of history. The President expressed hope the Indian History Congress will continue to remain alert and vigilant in the cause of an objective study of history.