Universities must be bastions of free speech and expression: President Mukherjee

Patna (Bihar) [India], Aug. 27 : President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday said universities must be the bastions of free speech and expression, adding that they must be the arena where diverse and conflicting schools of thought contend.

"There should be no room for intolerance, prejudice and hatred within the spaces of this institution. Further, it must act as a flag bearer for the coexistence of multiple views, thoughts and philosophies," President Mukherjee said while addressing the first convocation of Nalanda University.

He also laid the foundations stone of its new campus at Rajgir, Nalanda. Speaking on the occasion, the President said as a visitor to the Nalanda University, it is his hope that this university will truly attain the status of Nalanda of yore.

"There are many practices of ancient Nalanda which are worthy of emulation by the new Nalanda. One of the most important characteristics of ancient Nalanda was that it was an international institution where inter-Asian connections, in particular, flourished.

Chinese monks like Xuan Zang, Yijing and Huichao among others visited, lived, studied and taught in Nalanda.

At a later period, scholars from Tibet kept coming to Nalanda for studying Buddhism and other branches of knowledge," he said.

President Mukherjee said monks from several other countries including Sri Lanka also came to Nalanda, revealing the diversity of religious and cultural influences on the institution.

"The traffic was not just in one direction. Monks from Nalanda spread their wisdom across the world and had reached China before Xuan Zang's visit to India.

Ancient Nalanda was known for the high level of debate and discussion it nurtured. It was not a mere geographical expression but it reflected an idea and a culture,' he added. He said Nalanda conveyed the message of friendship, cooperation, debate, discussion and argument, adding that discussion and debate are part of our ethos and life.

The President said though the main subjects of study were the Buddhist texts, importance was also given to critiques of Buddhism by various schools, study of Vedas and beyond.

The lesson for modern Nalanda is to ensure that this great tradition finds new life and vigour within its precincts.

Nalanda was a melting pot of civilizations and modern India should remain the same. We should not close our windows and yet we should not be blown off by winds from outside," he added. President Mukherjee said we should let the winds flow freely from all over the world and get enriched by them.

"We should embrace free discussion and debate leaving behind narrow mindsets and thoughts," he added.

Source: ANI