President Ram Nath Kovind addressing the fourth edition of 'The Huddle' in Bengaluru on Saturday. Photo/ANI
President Ram Nath Kovind addressing the fourth edition of 'The Huddle' in Bengaluru on Saturday. Photo/ANI

Prejudices, violence vitiate search for truth: President

ANI | Updated: Feb 22, 2020 23:43 IST

Bengaluru (Karnataka), Feb 22 (ANI): Prejudices and violence vitiate the search for truth, President Ram Nath Kovind said on Saturday and noted that Mahatma Gandhi walked ceaselessly in search of truth, which ultimately encompasses every positive attribute that enriches the universe.
Addressing the fourth edition of 'The Huddle' - an annual thought conclave of The Hindu here, the President also said that internet and social media have democratised journalism and revitalised democracy, while noting that it also led to many anxieties in the present context.
He said that only the traditional media has over the years developed skills to authenticate a news report and it will have to introspect on its role in the society and find ways to earn reader's full trust again.
The President said that debate and discussion were internalised in India's social psyche to arrive at truth since time immemorial. He said information technology was playing the biggest role in shaping the world and had impacted journalism in all its aspects.
"It is so rapidly evolving that what was outright unimaginable only a few years ago has not only become a reality but has even lost its novelty! These trends have impacted journalism in all its aspects, from newsgathering to delivering news to readers and finally making money to sustain the activity," he said.
"The internet and social media have democratised journalism and revitalised democracy. This process is ongoing, but in its current stage, it has also led to many anxieties. The new media is fast and popular and people can choose what they want to watch, hear or read," he said.
"But only the traditional media has, over years, developed skills to authenticate a news report, and that is a costly operation. I hope that we will arrive at the ideal trade-off soon. The traditional media will have to introspect on its role in society and find ways to earn the reader's full trust again," he added.
The President said that the project of democracy is incomplete without informed citizens, which means without unbiased journalism.
Referring to the 'The Huddle', the title of the event, he said that long before the West discovered the benefits of democratic decision-making, Sant Basaveshwara, a 12th-century philosopher endowed with extraordinary wisdom, had promoted a culture of collective discussion which was called 'Anubhav Mantapa'.
"This is remembered as one of the world's first parliaments where people were encouraged to speak their mind irrespective of their social status. This was also a unique experiment of gender equality as women were also encouraged to take part in discussions and express their views," he said.
The President said India is blessed to have sages like Basaveshwara.
Noting that the perception of truth was conditioned by circumstances, he said the conditions "that cloud the truth's positions were effectively dispelled by contestation of ideas through debate, discussion and scientific temper."
"Prejudices and violence vitiate the search for truth," he said.
The President said Gandhi's insistence on truth, "that is, satyagraha, was based on his unique understanding of truth."
He said Gandhi was a journalist and his journalism was with a cause.
"Gandhi, as we all know, was a journalist too and edited a range of journals, in several languages, in South Africa as well as in India. His journalism was, journalism with a cause. Yet, he was deeply aware of the cause of journalism itself too, which is simply truth itself. That is why he cautioned against the superficiality, the one-sidedness, the inaccuracy and often even dishonesty that had crept into journalism. As he evolved from Mohandas to Mahatma, Truth - with a capital T - became his sole cause, sole quest," the President said.
He said sometimes dogmas and personal prejudices distort the truth.
"In the 150th year of Gandhiji's birth, let us ponder upon this question: Will it not be proper to pursue truth itself as the ideology? Gandhiji has shown us the path by walking ceaselessly in search of truth which would ultimately encompass every positive attribute that enriches the universe," he said.
"Today, however, we seem to be living in what has come to be called the post-truth era. I wonder what Gandhiji would have said about it," he said.
The President said of late there have been attempts to give various shades to truth and define its stages as if some final truth exists beyond provisional truths.
"To my mind, such attempts are nothing more than indulgence in semantics. Truth exists in an absolute form which cannot be eclipsed by blinkers of prejudices. It cannot be a case of 'your truth' versus 'my truth'. Truth has to be one," he said.
He expressed confidence that the society has been moving in this direction to discover truth through persistent dialogue, argumentation and scientific approach.
Referring to a recent interaction with students, the President said he was quite surprised when a girl student of class 11 asked if it would be correct to make it legally binding upon citizens to pay their genuine taxes, exercise their franchise, follow rules and respect constitutional entities.
"Such questions, asked without any prompt, are indicative of the new generation's yearning for arriving at truth through their own experience," he said.
He said The Hindu group of publications has been "relentlessly aiming to capture the essence of this great country through its responsible and ethical journalism." (ANI)

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