Congress president Sonia Gandhi along with son Rahul and other party leaders marched to Rashtrapati Bhavan on Tuesday to protest against the “atmosphere of fear, intolerance and intimidation being deliberately created by sections of the ruling establishment”.
The Gandhis launched a stinging assault on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing him of “endorsing incidents of hate by his silence”.
“Some organisations, some people who are connected with Modiji or are part of the government are making an assault on the composite culture
and basic values of India. Intolerance is being fuelled,” said the 68-year-old Congress chief with former prime minister Manmohan Singh by her side.
After handing a memorandum to President Pranab Mukherjee at the end of the 1km walk from the Parliament House complex to Raisina Hill, the Congress leaders prodded the PM for a response.
They said even the President and personalities from the arts and science have voiced their concern on spiraling intolerance.
The intolerance manifested in the murder of rationalists MM Kalburgi and Narendra Dabholkar.who had run-ins with Hindu hardliners, and the lynching of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh over beef, they said.
“He does not believe it is necessary for him to speak on these incidents while the President and the RBI governor have conveyed their concerns. The Prime Minister and the finance minister believe nothing is happening in the country and they feel everything is fine … These
people believe in intolerance. Ideologically they are not tolerant,” Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said.
The BJP dubbed the Congress march a “political stunt”. Its spokesperson, Union minister Prakash Javadekar, called the principal opposition party an “epitome of intolerance”.
“They had turned the country into a jail during Emergency,” he said. “During that period, intolerance was rampant when thousands of poor
Muslims were forcibly sterilized. Sikhs were butchered and massacred (after then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984)... Then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi justified it.”
The BJP was silent on Rahul Gandhi’s demand to remove Union minister VK Singh, who allegedly called two Dalit children dogs after they were burnt to death in Faridabad. For his part, the Congress vice-president parried a question from reporters on the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
His mother was at the front edge of the Congress’s movement against intolerance, leading a 125-member party delegation on Tuesday after calling on President Mukherjee on Monday evening.
“Whatever incidents are happening in the country today is part of a well-thought-out strategy being adopted deliberately to divide our
society,” Sonia Gandhi said. “But the Congress party will fight these forces with all its strength.”
Hundreds of Congress workers couldn’t march, though. The authorities had allowed only 125 to proceed to Rashtrapati Bhavan.
The Congress chief had walked a similar walk eight months ago, accompanied by leaders of 11 opposition parties, to protest the BJP-led government’s controversial land acquisition bill. The government eventually withdrew plans to push changes to the UPA’s 2013 land law.