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In Focus

December, 1

Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi's speech on intolerance in Lok Sabha

Thank you madam speaker for allowing me to intervene here today.

I listened to the prime minister a few days ago talk about our constitution. He spoke for over an hour and praised the people who in his view were the architects of the document that allows me to speak here today. He mentioned Gandhi ji, he praised Ambedkar ji, he spoke about the contribution of Rajendra Prasad, Vallabh bhai Patel and he even had a couple of words for Jawaharlal Nehru.

 

He spoke about the immense respect he gave to our constitution when he placed the book on an elephant and walked on the ground behind it.

 

Yet while I listened to the Prime Ministers speech I could see how profoundly we differ in our thinking. For Modi ji the people he mentioned were intellectual heroes to be worshipped and placed on a pedestal. They had all the answers to India’s problems. 

 

For me what was heroic about the people he mentioned was their ability to listen to the people of this country. They are my heroes not because they had all the answers but because they had the humility to ask the right questions. What was heroic to me was their ability to destroy their sense of self, or their ego to such a degree that they crystallised into the voice of the people they served. To me they were heroic because they put aside their own insecurities their failings and their desires to listen to what India was saying. They allowed India to speak.

   

For the first time in centuries they gave India the dignity to talk. And in response India didn’t just talk she sang so beautifully that the world could do nothing but listen in rapt attention.

 

For me madam speaker - The real authors of the constitution were people the prime minister did not spend much time on in his speech. They are the very people of this country.

 

The millions of voices rich, poor, male, female, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Punjabi, Marathi, Bengali, Malayali. The Kisan, the Mazdoor, the small business man, the big industrialist, the widowed mother, the orphaned son. Every single one of them including the weakest and most powerless of them all. All Gandhiji and his colleagues did was to love them and to listen to them with compassion. 

 

The constitution gives all Indians fundamental rights. I would like to mention the first - 

 

Right to Equality - Which includes equality before law, prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, gender or place of birth, and equality of opportunity in matters of employment, abolition of untouchability and abolition of titles.

 

Madam speaker all of us here swore an oath to protect these rights for each one of our citizens. It is our duty to do so. 

 

I have today sitting in front of me an ex-chief of the Indian Army. A general who likened two little babies who were burned to death to dogs. He has directly challenged the constitution and the fundamental right to equality by equating Dalit children to dogs.

   

Our Prime Minister allows this man to continue as minister as if nothing has happened. The Prime Minister is able to worship Ambedkar and forget that he spent his entire life protecting the dignity of those two little children. He helped write the constitution so they would never get burned. The Prime minister is simply unable to see the contradiction? 

 

I have Sakshi Maharaja and Yogi Adityanath sitting here in front of me. You are all aware of the language they use. Yet the Prime Minister remains silent. 

 

Modi ji talks about defence of the country. He talks of FDI in defence.

Mohd Akhlaq, father of a young air force officer Mohd Sartaj who is serving our nation, is killed in cold blood because he is a Muslim. When asked what his message was for all of us after his father’s brutal murder, Sartaj responded with "Saare Jahan se accha Hindustan Hamara, Majhab Nahi Sikhata Aapas Mai Bair Rakhna". The man ultimately responsible for his protection remains silent. The Prime Minister of India does not see the contradiction.

 

The Government talks of Skill India. Yet when young Students with superb skills at FTII go on strike because a mediocre man is placed in a top end institution. The government simply tries to crush and intimidate them. I went there – I spoke to them. All they wanted was to be heard. Yet the government that crushed their voice does not see the contradiction.

   

Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi are shot dead in cold blood by fanatics. The Prime Minster has nothing to say.

   

In Gujarat, Patidars are complaining about the lack of opportunites for them in education. They protest. What is the Gujarat government’s response to the agitation?  20,000 FIRs are filed against them for sedition. Hundreds of them are locked up. Since when has agitating for job and education opportunities become sedition?

   

You do not even spare your own.

   

Former union minister Arun Shourie has said that he has been the target of severe abuse online by BJP supporters ever since he turned a critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Mr Shourie, a one-time admirer of Mr Modi, also said that the BJP supporters even abused his son, who has cerebral palsy. 

 

Mr Shourie alleged that several of these 'influencers' were abusive on Twitter, and that despite their continuing abuse, the PM continued to follow them.

 

And as all this is going on the best talent India has – the best writers, intellectuals and artists of this country give their awards back as a sign of protest. The government does not even bother to speak to them. Arun Jaitley ji simply says it’s all manufactured.

 

Why would they manufacture it?

   

JaitleyJi - This is not a dream like your "Make in India" program. 

 

This is reality. 

 

Do you think people like Narayanmurthy, Raghuram Rajan and P. M Bhargava have nothing better to do then to manufacture protest against you? They are saying it because they are disturbed like millions of people in this country. Give them the respect of trying to understand what disturbs them. Don’t brush people aside. Go and listen to them. 

 

Speaker madam, the prime minister talks about economic growth and progress. At the same time his colleagues talk about sending Bollywood stars to Pakistan. India is successful because we have given our people the space to talk. We have been peaceful because we have embraced our people and let them be part of the conversation. Our greatest strength is our tolerance. 

 

Pakistan has failed because they did not allow the voice of their people to be heard. They have failed because their leaders crushed the voices that were inconvenient to them. Their biggest weakness is their intolerance. Let us not learn the wrong lessons from them. 

 

Gandhiji, the father of our nation gave our people voice. He allowed people who had not been heard for centuries to sing. Nathuram Godse put three bullets into his chest and silenced him. 

 

I sat here and listened the other day while Narendra Modi praised Mahatma Gandhi. I have also seen him remain silent when his colleague Shakshi Maharaj called Godse a patriot. I am pretty certain the PM does not see this contradiction either. 

 

Will the prime minister start to listen to the voice of our people? Or will he stand by and watch as his colleagues trample on the voice of this country. 

 

Will he simply place the constitution on an elephant and walk in front? Or will he do his job and defend what it stands for? 

 

Will he let our beautiful India continue to sing? Or does he think he can condemn our nation to silence?

 

Thank you madam speaker.

 
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