New Delhi: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday held the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) responsible for intolerance in India and said the country cannot be painted in "one colour".
"They (BJP and RSS) want everyone to sing in one tune. They want a picture to be painted in just one colour which is not possible because of the nature of our country," he said while addressing a birth anniversary function of former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium here.
"The BJP and the RSS think they know everything and don't like to be questioned but the truth is if they knew everything, 'achchhe din' (good times) would have come (by now)," he said.
Earlier on 7th November, Rahul Gandhi said, "We have come together to defend our freedom and our rights, to fight for the idea of India as a sovereign, secular, socialist, democratic republic, the idea of India where everyone has a voice and freedom, India as a society which celebrates dissent, and most importantly India as a nation inspired by its ancient and timeless commitment to compassion, truth and ahimsa."
"Nobody can claim monopoly on truth. Each Indian has his and her own unique perspective. Nobody has a monopoly on knowledge and truth. Knowledge comes though practice and experience. It is not a gift handed out from above. Knowledge is not static, it is dynamic and it has to be constantly tested and questioned again and again and by everybody", he added.
"When the RSS and the BJP deny this, they are not just being intolerant. They are disrespecting the power and agency of every single Indian per se. They are disrespecting and denying the Indian people their dignity and we, for one, “will never allow the Indian people to be disrespected”, he said.
Rahul Gandhi shot a barrage of questions at the BJP and the RSS: "With what face does the BJP ban people without a certain education qualification from fighting panchayat elections in some of the states? With what nerve does the BJP place incompetent ideologues as the head of hallowed institutions?" he asked.
"Why must all of India be subjected to the hateful mediocrity of Mohan Bhagwat on national television?
"It was precisely this kind of thinking – that only some people have a monopoly on truth or knowledge – that was used to enslave India and is it this non-thinking that Nehru fought all his life.
"This country belongs to everyone. This country belongs to any well wisher who comes in contact with it, even a guest who is in India for three day", he said.
"This negotiating over who India belongs to and on what basis is ugly and dangerous. It demeans us all and we uniformly reject", he said.
In his effort to reach out to people, Gandhi appealed the people to support his party as he said the Congress party was “constantly changing” and it wanted to “re-establish the relationship, to have a discussion and to bring forth the ideas that are going help us defeat the RSS”.
Seeking to reach out to academicians and intellectuals, Gandhi said, “Congress party needs to expand itself, needs to bring in people like you, needs to have discussions.” But you also have to look and realize that the Congress party deals with the equation of power. The Congress party is forced to deal with it, and that changes many many things. “I cannot just wish away the idea of power, it exists”, I have to operate within that power.
"We are viewing this as a victory of the RSS in some measure. We are viewing this as the RSS having beaten us. This is false", he said.
Launching an all-out war on RSS, Rahul Gandhi said, “The RSS does not begin to understand what it is going to face in the coming weeks and months and years.”
Describing secularism as the DNA of the Congress, Gandhi asserted that Congress will reinvigorate that and then it will “not just defeat but smash the RSS and the BJP”.
The Congress Vice President also criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying had there been tolerance in the country under the present regime, he would have not been asked to comment on the issue in London where he is on a three-day visit.
(Manzar Imam is a freelance journalist based in Delhi)