NEW DELHI – While addressing students at Cambridge University, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi came down heavily on the Narendra Modi government saying that the basic structure of democracy and minorities are under attack under the present regime in India.
Gandhi was addressing the MBA students at Cambridge Business School on the topic of ‘Learning to Listen in the 21st Century’.
“Everybody knows and it’s been in the news a lot that Indian democracy is under pressure and under attack. I am an Opposition leader in India, we are navigating that (Opposition) space. The institutional framework which is required for a democracy — Parliament, free press, the judiciary, just the idea of mobilisation, moving around — all are getting constrained. So, we are facing an attack on the basic structure of Indian democracy,” said former Congress president.
Gandhi showed the headlines of some reports on the projector to substantiate his argument on the issue. These headlines include the reports related to the attacks on Muslims and lynching in the name of cow.
“You also heard of the attack on minorities the attack on the press. So, you get a sense of what is going on,” he said.
He pointed out five crucial points with regard to the attacks on Indian democracy: Capture and Control of Media and Judiciary, Surveillance and Intimidation, Coercion by Federal Law Enforcement Agencies, Attacks on Minorities, Dalits and Tribal and Shutdown of Dissent.
Talking about the attack on the opposition, Gandhi cited a picture of himself in which he can be seen being pushed by some police official.
“In the Constitution, India is described as a Union of States, and that Union requires negotiation and conversation. It is that negotiation that is under attack and threat. You can see the picture which is taken in front of Parliament House. The Opposition leaders were just standing there talking about certain issues, and we were put in jail. That’s happened 3 or 4 times. It has happened relatively violently,” said Wayanad MP.
Gandhi also brought out the issue of Pegasus being used to track the opposition leader, journalists and critics.
“I myself had Pegasus on my phone. A large number of politicians had Pegasus on their phones. I have been called by intelligence officers who told me, ‘Please be careful about what you are saying on the phone because we are sort of recording the stuff. So, this is the constant pressure that we feel. Cases on the Opposition. I have got a number of criminal liable cases for things that should under no circumstances be criminal liable cases. That’s what we are trying to defend,” he said.
Gandhi’s speech has drawn sharp reactions from the government as well as the Bharatiya Janata Party.
“Rahul Gandhi is again doing this work of hue & cry on foreign soil. Pegasus is in his mind. Under PM Modi’s leadership, respect for India increased across the world & big leaders are saying it. Rahul Gandhi should listen to what Italian PM said about PM Modi,” Union Min Anurag Thakur was quoted by ANI as saying.