New Delhi: In the middle of a debate on intolerance, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today said suppression of dissent poses “grave danger” for economic development. “The nation is deeply concerned at recent tragic instances of violations of freedom of thought, belief, speech and expression by some violent extremist groups” he said.
Speaking at a conference to mark the 125th birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr Singh said no religion can become basis of public policy. “Religion is a private matter in which no one, including state, can interfere,” he said, adding, “In a secular republic, no religion can become the basis of public policy or governance, nor can any religious belief be imposed on anyone.”
The comments come at a time “rising intolerance” has been the dominating theme of protests by writers, artists, filmmakers and opposition parties following incidents like the killing of rationalists and mob attacks over beef-eating or cow slaughter rumours.
“The nation is deeply concerned at the recent tragic instances of blatant violations of the right to freedom of thought, belief, speech and expression in our country by some violent extremist groups. The assault or murder of thinkers cannot be justified on any grounds, nor can suppression of right to dissent be allowed,” said Dr Singh.
“All right thinking people in the country have condemned such incidents in the strongest terms as an assault on the nation,” he added.
Invoking Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first prime minister and the Congress’ biggest icon, Dr Singh said: “The prerequisite for innovation, entrepreneurship and competition is an open society and a liberal polity where individuals are free to pursue their ideas. Suppression of dissent or free speech poses a grave danger for economic development. There can be no free market without freedom.”
Earlier this week, Dr Singh, 83, joined Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi in the Congress party’s march to the President’s House to protest against what it calls Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s silence on “intolerance”.
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