Opening yet another front against the government, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi Thursday met social activists, including Greenpeace member Priya Pillai who took the Centre to court for not allowing her fly to the UK, and pledged support to them.
Gandhi also promised to back the members of the civil society against the government’s alleged attack on the right to speech and dissent. The party would back a broader alliance against communal forces and rising atrocities against Dalits and tribals, he said.
“A wide cross-section of Civil Society Leaders met Rahul Gandhi on the issue of BJP Govt’s continuing attack on Freedom of Speech & Dissent,” the Twitter handle of Rahul’s office said after the meeting.
Pillai, who was off-loaded from a London-bound flight in January, outlined how the government, particularly the home ministry, had been targeting Greenpeace.
In London, she was to speak on the alleged violation of forest right of tribals in the Mahan coal block area of Madhya Pradesh.
The Delhi high court has twice this year given Greenpeace and Pillai a clean chit, ruling that a different point of view did not mean the activists were anti-national.
“We welcome the stand taken by Rahul Gandhi,” Pillai later said.
The Congress leader expressed “full solidarity with the people’s struggle to safeguard hard-won constitutional freedoms”, a statement by the activists said.
After his return from a sabbatical in April, Gandhi has aggressively taken on the Modi government on several issues, including the controversial land bill, one rank one pension for former soldiers and alleged atrocities against Dalits.
“He (Rahul Gandhi) told us that the corporate sector was upset with the Congress for RTI, which allowed common citizens to raise uncomfortable questions,” said MJ Vijayan, general secretary, Programme For Social Action, an NGO.
Gandhi was the first stop for civil society organisations that have decided to meet all political parties are not part of the BJP-led ruling
NDA to seek support for a broad “anti-authoritarian, pro-poor, pro-environment platform”.
Ashish Kothari of the Pune-based Kalpvriksh Environmental Collective said the civil society saw “a diminution of space for dissent whether in the voluntary sector, the trade union movement, the minorities, Dalit, adivasi and other forest-dwelling communities”.