Sonia at Chintan Shivir: Modi govt has ‘brutalised minorities’, kept country ‘permanently polarised’

Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Friday mounted a fierce attack on the Narendra Modi-led BJP government, accusing it of allegedly victimising and brutalising minorities, glorifying the killers of Mahatma Gandhi, and keeping the country in a state of “permanent polarisation” that has, she charged, compelled the people of the country to live in a constant state of fear and insecurity. She said the fires of “hatred and discord” that are being ignited have taken a heavy toll on peoples’ lives.

Inaugurating the Congress’s three-day brainstorming session, called “Nav Sankalp Shivir”, in Rajasthan’s Udaipur, Gandhi trained her focus largely on the politics of hatred, even as she attacked the Modi government over a raft of issues. She alleged that the Modi regime was threatening and intimidating political opponents and misusing investigative agencies against them, eroding the independence and professionalism of institutions of democracy while reinventing history.

“By now it has become abundantly and most painfully clear what Prime Minister Modi and his colleagues really mean by their frequently repeated slogan: maximum governance, minimum government. It means keeping the country in a state of permanent polarisation, compelling our people to live in a constant state of fear and insecurity,” she said.

Elaborating, she said “it means viciously targeting, victimising and often brutalising minorities who are an integral part of our society and are equal citizens of our republic. It means using our society’s age-old pluralities to divide us and subverting the carefully nurtured idea of unity in diversity. It means threatening and intimidating political opponents, maligning their reputations, jailing them on flimsy pretexts, misusing investigative agencies against them.”

“It means eroding the independence and professionalism of all institutions of democracy,” the Congress chief said, targeting the BJP dispensation. “It means the wholesale reinvention of history, the constant denigration of our leaders especially Jawaharlal Nehru and systematic moves to distort, deny and destroy their contributions, achievements and sacrifices. It means glorifying the killers of Mahatma Gandhi and their ideologues.”

Gandhi accused the Modi government of blatantly “undermining” the principles and provisions of the Constitution and its pillars of justice, liberty, equality, fraternity and secularism and said the “government is turning a blind eye to continued atrocities across the country on weaker sections, especially Dalits, Adivasis and women.”

She also said the government was “using fear to make the bureaucracy, to make corporate India, to make civil society and sections of the media fall in line.”

“It means more empty slogans, diversionary tactics and utter silence on the part of an ever so eloquent Prime Minister when the healing touch is most needed. It is not just the undermining of our long-cherished values embodied in the Constitution that are now at grave risk. The fires of hatred and discord that are being ignited have taken a heavy toll on peoples’ lives. This is having serious social consequences,” Gandhi said.

She pointed out that the vast majority of Indians want to live in an atmosphere of peace, amity and harmony but the BJP and “its cohorts and surrogates” wanted to “keep our people in a state of perpetual frenzy and conflict”.

“They constantly provoke, instigate and inflame. We have to combat this growing virus of divisiveness that is being maliciously and mischievously spread. This we must do at all costs,” she said, adding the “worsening environment of social illiberalism and bigotry shakes the very foundations of economic growth”.

Gandhi further said the economy has been on a steep downslide since the “disastrous demonetization” of high-value currency notes in 2016.

“A large majority of MSMEs have been crippled. Unemployment has risen alarmingly and for the first time it appears that vast numbers of people have simply stopped looking for jobs. Whatever support the central government has been able to provide in the past two years to people has been on account of at least two landmark initiatives of the Congress party – Mahatma Gandhi NREGA and the National Food Security Act,” she said.

The Congress president also spoke of the farmers’ agitation, pointing out that the “promises made by the Prime Minister to the farmers when they withdrew their agitation have yet to be fulfilled”.

“Meanwhile it looks as if procurement of wheat this year will fall steeply, threatening the very foundations of our national food security. Prices of essential items of mass consumption – like cooking gas, cooking oil, pulses, vegetables, fertilizers, petrol and diesel – continue their upward march placing an intolerable burden on crores of families,” Gandhi said.

She said the privatisation of public sector companies with a “vengeance” will have disastrous repercussions. “Among other things, this means that one avenue for assured employment for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes will get closed,” she said.

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