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'If we don't speak up, silence will be taken as consent': Sonia Gandhi

Catch Team | Updated on: 1 July 2017, 22:26 IST
(Twitter/Indian National Congress)

During the release of National Herald's Commemorative Publication celebrating 70 years of India's Independence, Congress president Sonia Gandhi launched a veiled but scathing attack on the BJP and the RSS, accusing them of taking India to the crossroads marked by increasing threats of authoritarianism and bigotry.

Claiming how the India of today is in the war of ideas, Sonia Gandhi said that a war must be waged to preserve the ideals which led to this nation turning into a model of democracy, diversity and co-existence.

“When these ideals are threatened, India itself is in danger. And if we do not raise our voices, if we do not speak up, our silence will be taken as consent,” she added.

Calling domestic misrule a great challenge for the country, Congress President said that the inclusive conception of the nation is under attack wherein the media is pressured to obey and applaud rather than to question. “...Speaking truth to power is the imperative of our age,” she added.

Reiterating the negligible role of right wing forces in the freedom struggle, Sonia Gandhi said those who were completely opposed to the Constitution are at present seeking to create an India that is completely at odds with the one envisioned by those who made sacrifices for the idea of India.

“Let us not forget that they made no sacrifices to shape India’s destiny,” she said while adding that the tried and tested idea of India has been thrown into question by rising intolerance by malevolent forces that tell the people what to eat, say and think, and whom to love.

“And all this is being encouraged by a culture of vigilante violence actively supported by those who are supposed to enforce the law. Such examples assault our consciousness almost daily,” she added. The Congress president stressed that the people must resist hard to preserve the soul of the nation.

Warning those present, the Congress president pointed that if the present day fallacies and follies are not questioned, scrutinised or challenged, the future generations would be left with a land of injustice, a legacy of trauma, and a country divided and broken.

President Pranab Mukherjee was the chief guest at the event and unveiled the publication in the presence of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, among other senior leaders of the Congress.

Here is the full text of Congress president's speech:

Sonia speaks

Hon’ble Rashtrapati-ji,

Dr Manmohan Singh-ji,

Shri Motilal Vora,

Shri Neelabh Mishra,

Friends,

It gives me great pleasure to welcome the Hon’ble President Shri Pranab Mukherjee and all our distinguished guests on this special occasion - the launch of the commemorative publication of the National Herald, as India celebrates 70 years of Independence.

We have come a long way since 1947, and we rejoice together as Indians. But while we celebrate the achievements of our past, we must also look within, so that we can shape a better future.

The story of the National Herald is, in many ways, the story of modern India. The intellectual force behind its founding in September 1938 was of course Jawaharlal Nehru who served as its founding editor, as the conscience-keeper of India’s mission in the world, and as the first architect of India as an independent nation.

He was not alone, for his was an age of towering visionaries of rare dedication. He followed in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi and other great pioneers, and in turn was accompanied by a host of luminaries the like of which few countries or societies have witnessed.

The newspaper Nehru founded reflected what that generation stood for. While today we find ourselves increasingly divided in the name of class and caste, religion and region, the National Herald is a testament to those great leaders who rose beyond individual ambition to project and protect the very soul of this land. Unity, peace and justice, not division and conflict, were the lights that guided them, in thought as well as action.

These leaders—Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Dr Ambedkar and many others – have left behind matchless legacies that have stood the test of time and the turbulence of history.

It is one of the ironies of our present times that the soaring reach of their work is now sought to be either obliterated or in some cases appropriated -- by individuals and groups who are in direct opposition to their beliefs and principles. Those who stood aside when history was painfully made by sacrifice and struggle, those who, indeed, had little faith in the Constitution adopted by our country, are now seeking to create an India completely at odds with the one that saw the light of Independence on August 15, 1947. Let us not forget that they made no sacrifices to shape India’s destiny.

Though their language is modern, they seek to take India backward, to further their narrow sectarian vision. Their modern jargon conceals pre-modern beliefs, concepts that are at odds with progressive and inclusive thought, with contemporary knowledge and with a vision for the future. It is our duty to pull away the hypocrisy and reveal the reality lurking beneath.

Today, that tried and tested idea of India has been thrown fundamentally into question by rising intolerance, by malevolent forces that tell Indians what they cannot eat, who they cannot love, what they cannot say— indeed, what thoughts they cannot hold.

And all this is being encouraged by a culture of vigilante violence actively supported by those who are supposed to enforce the law. Such examples assault our consciousness almost daily.

India has reached a crossroads marked by increasing threats of authori-tarianism and bigotry. Where we choose to stand today is where our country will head tomorrow.

As Nehru wrote, “Idealism is tomorrow’s realism”. Even in the darkest of hours, we must preserve the flame of our national ideals.

If we accept without scrutiny, without question, without a challenge the fallacies and follies we are witness to today, we will leave for our children a land of injustice, a legacy of trauma, and a country divided and broken.

We are in a war of ideas. We wage this war to preserve our ideals, which have built India up as a model of democracy, diversity and co-existence. When these ideals are threatened, India itself is in danger. And if we do not raise our voices, if we do not speak up, our silence will be taken as consent.

We have daunting enough battles to fight -- against injustice, against poverty, against prejudice, against patriarchy, against malnutrition, against illiteracy, against communalism -- but we must also prevail in this greater war for the soul of our nation.

Ours is a mission to preserve the credibility and sanctity of our institutions in their democratic design. Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas of truth, Jawaharlal Nehru’s celebration of pluralism, Sardar Patel’s vision of unity, Dr Ambedkar’s legacy of social justice-- these are what we must fight for today.

The National Herald evokes a time when nationalism fought foreign rule. But domestic misrule is as great a challenge for our country. At a time when the inclusive conception of our nation is under attack, and the press is pressured to obey and applaud rather than to question, speaking truth to power is the imperative of our age.

The National Herald is a reminder of what is precious about the India its founders fought to free. Let us work together for its success, for the ideals it embodies. Let us work together to safeguard an India in which each person’s voice can be raised and heard: most of all the voices of those who question and disagree.

We recognise today that it is only through such an on-going conversation—always lively, often even heated and noisy -- that our future as a united and peaceful India can be affirmed and ensured.

Thank you, and Jai Hind.

First published: 1 July 2017, 22:02 IST
 
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