Sonia attacks Modi government, says intolerance rising, history being rewritten

New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday attacked the Narendra Modi government over “rising intolerance”, saying that a discriminatory view of Indianness was being thrust upon the people and that the country’s heritage was in the hands of “those rewriting history, imposing falsehood and unscientific ideas”.

In a speech at a function in which the 30th Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration was conferred on Carnatic musician T.M. Krishna, Sonia Gandhi said, “We must be undaunted, unafraid, and uncompromising against the forces of darkness that seek to engulf our land.”

She said the Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration is a recognition of the values she stood for at a time “when our country finds itself increasingly divided in the name of a narrow nationalism”.

The Congress President said the liberal Indian ethos that former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi embodied in her life was being openly rejected.

The speech was read out in her absence by her son and Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi. The award was conferred on Krishna by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Rahul Gandhi.

Sonia Gandhi said the idea of India that Indira Gandhi fought for has been thrown fundamentally into question “by the rising intolerance that we are witnessing today”.

“A view of Indianness that is one-sided, discriminatory, even warped, is being thrust upon us. The country’s heritage is now in the hands of those who are bent upon rewriting history, imposing falsehood and unscientific ideas on our people and stifling independent thinking.”

“The liberal, tolerant Indian ethos that Indira Gandhi embodied in her life and beliefs is openly rejected and repudiated. The precious idea of national integration has never been more necessary than today,” she said.

Sonia Gandhi said this year also marks the centennial anniversary of Indira Gandhi’s birth and was an occasion to celebrate her life and remember her role in strengthening the foundations built by our founding fathers.

Indira Gandhi, she said, led India through major transformations and in her 16-year long battle against poverty and social injustice, she gave her all to make the country self-reliant in agriculture, industry and technology.

“She fought for the unity and integrity of the nation, stood for an India where distinctions of caste and creed, religion and region, would be eradicated.”

Sonia Gandhi said that after Operation Bluestar, when she was advised to transfer some bodyguards out of her service, she refused, saying that she would not judge anyone on the basis of religion.

“She paid for her principles with her life, but never compromised with her faith in India and her people.”

The Congress President said the award is given to those whose work seeks to protect and project the very soul of this land. “Unity and peace, not division and conflict, are the lights that guided our awardees, in thought as well as action – just as they guided her.”

Sonia Gandhi said the award is a testament not only to Indira Gandhi’s contributions to the making of India, but to the broad view of the Indian ethos and heritage that she cherished, and her faith in national integration and unity.

“It reminds all of us that like her, we must be undaunted, unafraid, and uncompromising against the forces of darkness that seek to engulf our land.

Referring to T.M. Krishna, Sonia Gandhi said he has never let himself be defined by his art alone. “He has established his reputation as an individual who is willing to raise questions that others are afraid to ask. In doing so, he reminds us to ask ourselves, what kind of India we want to see and what kind of Indians we want to be.”

The award is presented on the anniversary of the assassination of Indira Gandhi.