India's democracy under 'severe assault' but many people fighting the attack; we will win: Rahul Gandhi in Oslo interaction

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has alleged everything changed with respect to democracy in India after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 and now there is a weakening democracy with large parts of the population not allowed to speak.He also said though Indias democracy is under a severe assault, the country is defending it.

PTI | New Delhi | Updated: 21-09-2023 21:50 IST | Created: 21-09-2023 21:50 IST
India's democracy under 'severe assault' but many people fighting the attack; we will win: Rahul Gandhi in Oslo interaction
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Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has alleged ''everything changed'' with respect to democracy in India after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014 and now there is a ''weakening democracy'' with large parts of the population not allowed to speak.

He also said though India's democracy is under a ''severe assault'', the country is defending it. ''When that defence stops, if ever, then I'll say India is not a democracy anymore. However, there are still so many people who are fighting the attack on our democratic structure. The fight is not over and I think we will win the fight,'' he said in his remarks at the University of Oslo, Norway, earlier this month, the video of which was released by the party on Thursday.

In his free-wheeling conversation at the university, Gandhi also talked about the India-Bharat name row and said if the prime minister changes the name of India to Bharat, opposition bloc INDIA will also change its name and then the PM would have to again change the name of the country.

''I don't believe that any other political formation, by simply choosing their name, has succeeded in making the incumbent change the name of the country. That's a world record,'' he said evoking peals of laughter from the audience.

''If and when he does change the name, we will also change our name. Then, he will have to change the name again,'' he said.

With the government using Bharat more prominently, there was speculation recently that the country's name could be changed and India be dropped. The opposition had alleged the government's emphasis on Bharat had come due to the opposition alliance calling itself INDIA (Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance).

Gandhi said every person in INDIA grouping has agreed that they not tolerate the ''murder of Indian democracy''.

''Firstly, we will not let the RSS capture our institutions. Secondly, we believe the level of inequality generated in India — the monopoly of 2-3 business houses; the 200+ million people gone into poverty into past 9 years — is not acceptable. Thirdly, we all agree that government must spend and involve itself more on healthcare and education,'' he said.

Gandhi also said he defends a particular ideology in the country. ''It is the ideology of Mahatma Gandhi, Gautam Buddha and Guru Nanak; I fight for it. Whether I become the leader or don't become the leader is secondary... We are engaged in an ideological struggle for the future of our country, and it's our responsibility to defend our position, and that's what I do,'' he said. Gandhi said that until 2014, democracy in India was about a set of political parties fighting each other with neutral institutions, free and fair elections, access to media for everybody, access for finance to all, but ''all this changed in 2014''. ''In India, today we no longer fight a political party, so the entire game has changed, institutions are captured by the RSS, agencies CBI, ED and Income Tax Department have been weaponised, they attack those who resist the ideology of the BJP. So we are no longer fighting, your regular political contest, we are now fighting the architecture of the Indian state,'' he said Gandhi added that this means that the techniques that were traditionally used by parties such as interviews and conversations are not ''available to us anymore''.

''You have seen me talking to students in the US, in France, but I can't do that in India. I am physically not allowed to enter Indian universities, as are most of our opposition leaders. If we try to go into a university, we find that the vice chancellor is from the RSS and he tells us that discussion is not acceptable inside Indian universities,'' Gandhi alleged.

''You said India is the largest democracy, it is true, but for me a democracy where you are not allowed to express your voice, where you are not allowed to say what you feel, where a large numbers of people are not given that opportunity, is a weakening democracy and that is what we have in India,'' he said.

Gandhi alleged that large parts of the population are not allowed to speak, is threatened and political leadership is ''crushed''.

''I have got 24 cases on me, I have been interrogated for 55 hours, I have been given a two-year jail sentence, for the first time in India, someone has been given a maximum sentence for criminal defamation,'' he said.

Gandhi also said a lot of things that people hear about him and the idea that he is ''reluctant'' comes through the lens of the BJP, and ''that lens distorts reality and truth''.

''What we found that the old tools don't work. A lot of people asked me why you walked 4,000 km but it was the only option left for us...If you had asked me in 2005 or even 2012, If I would be walking from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, I would have said 'no way'. But it became a political necessity for us,'' he said.

''We have realised that when democracy is under attack and voice is under attack then only real way to combat that is through action, through physically going and meeting people. That is the only instrument that is left for the opposition,'' he claimed.

In his remarks, Gandhi also said the Congress is an idea and one of the central visions for India's people. ''We are redefining the Congress organisation and aligning it more closely with the Congress idea,'' he said.

''To understand this, we fought the British non-violently and defeated them. That's the Congress idea, and it resonates strongly in the hearts and minds of Indians. This idea is under attack by the RSS ideology,'' Gandhi said.

''How do we strengthen the Congress idea? By making it defend the Congress idea all across the country. Whenever the Congress idea is under attack, the Congress organisation steps up for its defence,'' he said.

Speaking about what will the INDIA bloc do when it comes to power, Gandhi said it will reclaim the democratic tradition of India and bring back the institutions that are neutral and belong to the people of India. ''We'll make sure they are not attacked or pressurised.'' ''For us to not manufacture in a country of 1.4 billion is not an option or we'll have such massive levels of unemployment and anger which will make our economy unsustainable. Can we offer an alternative vision to compete with the manufacturing prowess of China but in a way that's not coercive, but one with political, economic and social freedoms,'' he said.

''There are large parts of India that are not included in its growth story such as the tribals, Dalits, minorities, etc. and India won't be successful without their inclusion,'' Gandhi said.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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