By Prarthana Mitra
Congress president Rahul Gandhi returned to his alma mater on Thursday and regaled the audience at Beucerius Summer School, Hamburg, with a keynote address covering several burning issues concerning the Indian government and the country at large.
Stressing on the importance of including backward classes and minority communities in policymaking, Gandhi attributed the recent rise in lynchings and violence in the country to the exclusionary politics which he said has become synonymous with the Narendra Modi government.
Key takeaways from the speech
Tracing the country’s difficult history with casteism and progress from it, Gandhi praised all previous central governments for making an attempt to bring about a transition in the nation’s imagination and vision. Slowly and steadily, he said, there was a change in the way India viewed itself, overcoming draconian (anti)social laws like untouchability and immobility of the marginalised. In keeping with the constitutional precept of “one home for all”, considerable social progress was achieved in an organic decentralised manner, he added.
On rural India and social progress
A country with diverse cultures, ideas, languages, and beliefs can only prosper and progress when everyone takes part in the transformation. However, such a shift involves a number of risks for Dalit and tribal communities, ethnic minorities, poor farmers, backward and lower classes.
Gandhi added he thinks it is the duty of the Centre to make the transition smoother with a greater push of schemes like Guaranteed Employment Scheme (100 days of work), Bank Nationalisation, Right to Food and Information.
These structures, created to support the weaker sections of society, are being attacked, damaged and torn down by the Narendra Modi government. Without holding back, Gandhi further claimed that the money allocated for these schemes are now being squandered for an “economy first” India where all development was meant for the elite class.
On the economy
Gandhi called Modi’s fiduciary policies ill-conceived for causing ongoing and irreparable damage to the small and medium level enterprises, which he thinks, sustain the economy.
Demonetisation destroyed the cash flow for the informal economy and affected millions in its wake. The badly conceptualised Goods and Services Tax (GST) further “complicated” the lives of these small and medium scale businesses, he added.
Drawing a stark and dismal contrast, Gandhi compared China’s job creation rate (50,000 new jobs every 24 hours) to India which produces a mere 450 in the same period. While answering a question from the audience about how his government would compete with this, Gandhi said the future of a prosperous economy lies in the hands of small businesses. He added compared to the assistance and favours that top-tier corporations receive, the state support for SMEs is “minuscule.”
“They (the BJP government) feel that tribal communities, poor farmers, lower caste people, minorities shouldn’t get the same benefits as the elite,” the Congress president alleged.
Gandhi added that a huge powerful transformation requires social, secular and economic protection from the state, which is largely absent in today’s India and is responsible for the lynchings and mob violence that has taken hold of the nation recently. He went a step further in charting the history and origin of the militant organisation Islamic State saying it is dangerous in the twenty-first century to exclude people from national conversation and rewrite history in terms that are incompatible with the social fabric. The beginnings of the IS were also rooted in frustration, oppression and insurgency, he said.
Speaking of the largely ignored minorities who face persecution, deprivation and discrimination even now, he said, “If you don’t give them a vision, someone will.” It is important to resolve differences with love and dialogue, by listening to people from all backgrounds and beliefs. Once again, he reminded that hate is a choice and can only be countered with love.
“I am talking actually from experience. The only way you can move forward after violence is forgiveness. There is no other way. And to forgive you have to understand what exactly happened and why it happened,” Rahul Gandhi said. His sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra felt the same way, he also said, on hearing the news of terror group LTTE chief Prabhakaran’s death, the very same who ordered the assassination of his father Rajiv Gandhi.
He revealed this in a poised interaction with the audience post the speech where he elaborated on the future of India’s relations with the United States and China, about the historic parliamentary embrace he bestowed on political archrival Modi, and how non-violence is the key to solving the growing hate and violence.
“There is no other way. You might be under the illusion that you can fight violence with violence, but it will come back. You might think that you are very powerful and that you can subdue somebody else, but they will find a way of coming back,” Gandhi said.
Prarthana Mitra is a staff writer at Qrius
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