Amid the 'intolerance' debate, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said any incident of "atrocity" is a "blot" on the society as well as the nation whose "pain" should be felt by all and asserted that unity and harmony is the only way to take the country forward.
He said no questions can be raised over patriotism of any of the 125 crore Indians and nobody needs to produce a "certificate of patriotism", a statement that assumes significance as some people have make controversial remarks like asking dissenting people to 'go to Pakistan'.
Replying to a debate in Rajya Sabha on the Constitution, Modi underlined the 'mantra of ekta', saying there can be "many excuses for disintegration" in a diverse country like India but ways should be explored to keep the country united.
Adopting a conciliatory approach towards the opposition at a time when some crucial bills are stuck in the House, he pitched for bipartisan approach to all issues and decried attempts to introduce partisanship or politics in any issue concerning the nation.
In his 40-minute reply to the debate during which the government came under attack over 'intolerance', Modi said, "if there is any incident of atrocity against anybody, it is a blot on all of us, for the society as well as the nation. We should feel the pain and take this to ensure such things do not happen."
Though he did not specify any such incident, the statement may be seen a reference to the Dadri case where a Muslim man was lynched over beef-eating rumours.
"Unity and harmony is the tradition of India. We have to continue to explore reasons for strengthening the unity of the country. There will be many excuses for disintegration in a diverse country like India. It is our responsibility to unite people," the prime minister said.
"Nobody can raise questions over patriotism of the 125 crore citizens of the country. Nobody needs to give certificate of patriotism every now and then," he said.
This comes in the context of recent cases where some people, including from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, said those feeling unsafe like Aamir Khan should leave the country.
Asserting that the nation can be taken forward only through unity and harmony, Modi pitched for "equality and affection", saying, "There is a lot of strength in equality and affection... We have to recognise that the amount of power we have, others also have the same."
Contending that "enough fighting" has already taken place even between regions, he said he has a proposal to put in place a scheme 'Ek Bharat, Shresht Bharat' to strengthen the unity of the country.
Giving a glimpse of his idea which is still taking shape, he said the proposal could involve one state celebrating some other by holding annual festivals and learning languages.
Underlining that the country cannot move forward by 'tu tu, mai mai' (bickerings), Modi advocated the need for consensus while decrying the tendency to link everything to politics.
With several bills stuck in Rajya Sabha where the ruling National Democratic Alliance does not have adequate numbers, the prime minister reached out to its members saying the Upper House should work by rising above the question of partiality.
"I give more importance to Rajya Sabha, the House of Elders. There cannot be any discussion where there are no Elders and Rajya Sabha has its own unique role," he said.
He called for cooperation between the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha and invoked Gopalaswami Ayyangar, a member of the Constitution Drafting Committee and Leader of Rajya Sabha, to underline that in case of a dispute, the view of the Lower House will prevail.
Quoting Ayyangar, Modi said "the other House (Rajya Sabha) should not be an obstruction in the way of framing laws. There cannot be any bigger guide for this House (Rajya Sabha)." This assumes signficance as a number of bills passed by the Lok Sabha have got stuck in Rajya Sabha.
He said even Nehru had advocated harmony between the two Houses. "It is important on how we should run this House... It is very important. The nation is looking at us."
Pressing for cooperative approach, Modi cited the example of framing of the Constitution, saying there were different views even then but they came up with a historic document with a foresight as they could visualise the issues that would come up even 50 years later.
The prime minister said the new generation in the country should be prepared to do penance for the "sins of our ancestors" and will have to take the responsibility to ensure social justice.
He said the Constitution is not about laws alone, but is a social document, that can be referred to, whenever there is need for guidance and inspiration.
"Our Constitution is not about laws only. It is a social document. We admire these facets of our Constitution,"he said.
Modi said the Constitution provided strength to move forward together and that this was an occasion to pay homage to all members of the Constituent Assembly.
"Constitution should be a celebration and the message of the Constitution must reach the future generations," he said, adding that "If there is something we turn to when we need guidance and inspiration, it is the Constitution. The Constitution has the strength to bind all of us together as one and not as you and me."
He said the nation cannot ignore or forget the exemplary contribution of Babasaheb Ambedkar as well as the positive contribution every person has made to the nation.
"To show the path forward, we have to tell the coming generations of the contribution of eminent people...Everyone has to make a contribution, only then can the nation move forward," he said.
Modi quoted US author Granville Austin who had said, the framing of Indian Constitution was 'perhaps the greatest political venture since that originated in Philadelphia in 1787'.
Emphasising that one has to be neutral sometimes, rather than being in favour or against, Modi said people should feel that they can look forward to something even in gloomy days.
He said people have elected members to frame laws and "we have to do introspection on how much we need to rise above politics. This we will have to ascertain."