Sunday, July 21, 2024

The word ‘nation’ is a western concept; India is a union of states, like Europe: Rahul Gandhi – Times of India

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LONDON: Congress leader Rahul Gandhi defended his notion that India is not a nation but a “union of states” when he spoke to a packed hall of students at Cambridge University on Monday night. He also said that the death of his father had given him the strength to handle attacks on himself by Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Dr Shruti Kapila, a fellow at Corpus Christi College, who invited Rahul Gandhi to speak at the “India at 75” event, introduced the session saying freedom in India was in “short supply” today and that “India seems to be preparing for a new identity in the centenary year of the formation of RSS in 2025”.

Rahul said the word nation was a “Western concept”. “Think of India like a Europe that is politically and economically united — that is what India achieved 70 years ago. The RSS see India as a geographical India. For us, India comes alive when India speaks and dies when India goes silent. What I see is going on is a systematic attack on the institutions that allow India to speak …”

“The single biggest learning experience of my life was my father’s death,” Rahul told the audience. “The same event made me learn things I would never have learnt otherwise. So as long as you are ready to learn, it doesn’t matter how nasty people are. If Mr Modi attacks me, I say, ‘Great, I have learnt from him, give me more.’”

“I have a problem if anyone has a vision for India that excludes people,” he said. “Mr Modi is constructing a vision of India where he is leaving out huge chunks of our population,” he alleged. He said he was against the mining and deforestation in Hasdeo forest in Chhattisgarh, which would displace Adivasis, and was “working on it in the party.” You will see the results in a couple of weeks, he told a student.

Explaining why Congress was still losing elections, he said: “What we are fighting in India is a massive concentration of wealth and a capture of all the institutions. I am an opposition leader and I am talking to you in Cambridge. If the leader of the BJP was talking to you, you would see it all across India in the media. You will not see this talk for more than 30 seconds anywhere in the Indian media. We are not fighting a political party, we are fighting a capture of the Indian state and it’s not easy.”

He added: “A democratic context depends on certain structures, it depends on an election system that is free, a judiciary that is independent, and a press that is fair and, very importantly, depends on the type of money that different political formations have. If we are fighting an electoral contest, then we are fighting the institutional structure of India,” he said.

He said the solution was to go the Gandhian way, go directly to the people and mobilise the masses and do padyatras.

“When you play politics of polarisation, and when you isolate and demonise 200 million people, you are doing something extremely dangerous that is fundamentally against the idea of India. You can’t impose one ideology on a place that is as complicated as India. The idea of a union of states is a beautiful idea. The idea is you should give all our people of all these states their place in the sun and listen to what they are saying and appreciate their languages, history and culture. I think this goes to the heart of Indians. I would define India as a voice, the expression of a people, a journey.”

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