Amid Row Over Dadri Killing, President's Extempore Appeal for Tolerance

President Pranab Mukherjee at a book launch event in Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.

New Delhi: President Pranab Mukherjee has made an appeal for tolerance, days after a mob lynched a Muslim man in an Uttar Pradesh village, just 30 km away from the national capital, allegedly over rumours of cow slaughter.

"We can't allow core values of our civilisation to be wasted. The core values are that civilisation has celebrated diversity, promoted and advocated tolerance, endurance and plurality," President Mukherjee said today at the presidential palace, the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

Speaking after the release of a book about him, he also said, "Many ancient civilisations have fallen. Despite aggression after aggression our civilisation has survived because of our core civilisation values....If we keep that in mind, nothing can prevent our democracy from moving ahead."  

The President seemed to veer off his talking points to make his strong pitch for tolerance towards the end of a 15-minute extempore speech, that was otherwise filled with anecdotes and light-hearted references to his long career as a parliamentarian and then President of India.

Among those present was Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who had said earlier today, "Be it the state government or the central government, strongest possible action will be taken against those who try to break communal harmony in the country."

There has been nationwide outrage at 52-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq's murder by the mob in Bisada village in UP's Dadri last week. It has also led to controversial statements by politicians amid the arrest of ten men of the village, including the son of a local BJP leader.

Opposition parties have questioned what they call the Prime Minister's silence on the incident, even as leaders of the BJP and those of the Samajwadi Party, which rules Uttar Pradesh, have traded charges of polarisation.

The Home Ministry briefed the Prime Minister's Office today, after receiving a report from the UP government, which has said that politicisation of the issue has led to unrest in the Dadri area.