Congress leaders march over intolerance, accuse Modi of silence
New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “silence” against forces of “prejudice, bigotry and intolerance” and urged President Pranab Mukherjee to use the authority of his office to tell him that “this is unacceptable”.
Gandhi led a protest march by the party from parliament to Rashtrapati Bhavan and mounted a strong attack on Modi, accusing him of not taking action against ministers “for their provocative statements”.
The Congress said in a memorandum that the president had spoken out strongly and unequivocally against the forces of prejudice, bigotry and intolerance, but that the prime minister “has not deemed it fit to do so”.
“Worse, his council of ministers continues to harbour individuals who are contributing heavily to spreading hate and divisiveness. No action has been taken against them for their provocative statements and actions,” it said.
The party said India was being set on the path of an illiberal democracy, “whose very spirit is sought to be snuffed out, a democracy, where civil discourse is being vitiated and where intellectual freedom is being stifled”.
Noting that it was a matter of grave concern for all Indians, the party said the prime minister’s “silence and inaction, has only conveyed the impression that the condones all that has been happening”.
“We would like to humbly request the honourable Rashtrapati ji to use the political and moral authority of his office to impress upon the prime minister that this is unacceptable,” the party said.
The march included all senior leaders of the Congress including party vice president Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and Leader of Congress in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge.
The Congress memorandum expressed its “grave concern at the growing atmosphere of fear, intolerance and intimidation in our country being deliberately created by sections of the ruling establishment”.
“A sinister campaign has been unleashed to create social and communal tension and conflict with the objective of polarising our society and disturbing social harmony.
“The pluralistic character of our society and its rich diversity is under assault,” the party said.
It said it was giving the memorandum to the president “in great anguish and agony”.
The Congress said distinguished men and women from various walks of life have raised their voices of protest against the growing intolerance, “but senior ministers have belittled these actions in characteristically intemperate manner”.
The party said it has a most vital role in the protection and preservation of democratic values and institutions.
“We will play our role in a responsible manner,” it said.
Talking to reporters later, Sonia Gandhi said the party conveyed its concern to the president over the “atmosphere of intolerance” in the country under the BJP-led government.
She said the culture of the country was under attack and “intolerance was being promoted” and attempt was being made to divide the society.
“This is matter of concern for every Indian. The president has expressed his views but the prime minister is silent. This makes one thing clear that all this has his approval,” Sonia Gandhi said.
“We will fight these forces with our full might ” she added.
Rahul Gandhi accused the prime minister of being silent on incidents such as the lynching of a Muslim man in Dadri in Uttar Pradesh over rumours of eating beef.
He also hit out at union minister V.K. Singh for his remarks last month about stoning a dog while commenting on the burning of two Dalit children in a Haryana village by upper caste villagers.
“This is not the type of minister who should be in the cabinet,” Rahul Gandhi said.
He said Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley think everything was fine.
“The finance minister should visit villages to see what’s going on. We are proud people. We like to say what we want. The PM does not want that,” Gandhi said.
Congress leaders carried placards which said the party will fight communalism and no attempt should be made to disrupt the unity of the country.
Before the march, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh among others paid floral tributes at the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in the parliament complex.