Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday took her party’s concerns over spiraling intolerance and communal tension in the country to President Pranab Mukherjee, the move viewed as a build-up to a bigger strategy to corner the NDA government.
She and her son, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, will lead a march of party leaders on Tuesday from Parliament House to Rashtrapati Bhavan to protest “this rising and disturbing trend”, party sources said. Gandhi has been mounting pressure on the Modi government over “growing intolerance” in the country.
This comes amid clamour by writers, historians, filmmakers and scientists after the murder of rationalists MM Kalburgi in Karnataka and Narendra Dabholkar of Maharashtra, who had run-ins with Hindu hardliners for their independent views on social and religious matters.
The principal opposition party plans to give the President a memorandum after Tuesday’s march, where members of the extended Congress Working Committee, office-bearers and MPs will participate, besides the Gandhis.
The protest walk follows a raft of writers and artistes returning their state awards, unhappy over rising intolerance and irrationality.
The Congress president too has consistently attacked the Modi government, claiming that ever since the Modi government assumed power, intellectuals were being harassed and an effort has been made to stoke communal tensions through rumours in an apparent reference to the recent lynching of a man at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh.
Presenting the 29th Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration to Gandhian social activist PV Rajagopal on Saturday, the Congress chief had said the people of a “particular ideology” were spreading hatred to divide people and that all of this was part of a “predetermined plan” but asserted that her party would not allow “such a diabolical design” to succeed.
On his part, the President has spoken several times in the recent past against the rising intolerance. “Our country has thrived due to its power of assimilation and tolerance. Our pluralistic character has stood the test of time… Multiplicity is our collective strength which must be preserved at all costs,” he said, inaugurating the golden jubilee celebration of the Delhi high court on Saturday.
War of words
In a continuing war of words, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said the Congress had no right to lecture his government on intolerance in the country because the party presided over the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
“Today is November 2. Do you recall 1984?” he asked a large crowd at an election rally in Bihar ahead of the final day of polling. “Lakhs of Sikhs were massacred in Delhi and across India on the second, third and fourth day of Indira Gandhi’s killing in which serious allegations were made against Congress and its leaders.
Today, on the same day, the Congress party has the cheek to preach on intolerance... The tears in the eyes of the Sikh victims have not yet dried.”
The Prime Minister’s statements came a day after finance minister Arun Jaitley in a social media post described Modi as the biggest victim of the “ideological intolerance” practised by the Congress and leftist thinkers.
Earlier this year, the Congress president had led a march of about 100 leaders from 11 opposition parties – Janata Dal (United), Rashtriya Janata Dal, Samajwadi Party, the Left Front, DMK, Trinamool Congress and others -- to the Rashtrapati Bhawan against the NDA government’s land acquisition bill. The government later withdrew its controversial ordinance on the issue.