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Rahul and Omar Abdullah assail Centre’s attempt to crush voices

Our vision is unity in diversity, but their (the BJP’s) vision is unity through conformity: Congress leader
Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul Gandhi.
File photo

M.R. Venkatesh   |   Chennai   |   Published 01.03.22, 03:54 AM

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and former chief minister Omar Abdullah on Monday assailed the Centre’s attempt to crush the voice of the people, speaking out from a platform that was shared by several Opposition figures.

“Our vision is unity in diversity, but their (the BJP’s) vision is unity through conformity: ‘You will conform to what we say’. But who are you to say how India should be? Let the people decide. This is the central fight in the country today,” Rahul said in Chennai.


The Congress MP was speaking after releasing the first part of Ungalil Oruvan (One Among You), the autobiography of DMK president and Tamil Nadu chief minister M.K. Stalin.

Kerala chief minister and CPM leader Pinarayi Vijayan and RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav were among those who participated in the book release, which came on the eve of Stalin’s 69th birthday.

Stalin made a moving appeal to the guests, saying India faced a threat from divisive forces and “we should all come together to defeat the divisive forces and defend the Constitution”.

Abdullah spoke in anguish, saying what had happened in Jammu and Kashmir was done unilaterally, dividing it into two parts and “downgrading it to a Union territory without the permission of the people of J&K”.

Warning of a repeat of such aberrations that undermined the federal structure, Abdullah said: “What started in J&K does not end there.”

He expressed hope that all the Opposition leaders present on the dais would join a right and just struggle. It is not just a fight against a political party but a struggle to restore the “institutional autonomy” that has been completely eroded, the former chief minister said.

Thanking the DMK and Stalin for being one of the few voices to condemn what the BJP government had done to Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, Abdullah said: “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”

Tejashwi called for a struggle to ensure a “caste-based census immediately” and emphasised the importance of this forum to “collectively resist” the assault on constitutional values.

Kerala chief minister Vijayan lauded Stalin’s willingness to “stand up in defence of federalism and secure the rights of the states”. The effort to uphold secularism and social justice and oppose the divisive forces has to be a “joint fight”, Vijayan said.

Sharing Abdullah’s concerns, Rahul said the “voices of our people, which are represented in our institutions”, had faced a systematic assault.

“My friend and colleague Omar Abdullah spoke wonderfully here today. He said the most important thing to be said today and I want to repeat it here,” Rahul said.

Turning to Abdullah, Rahul said that for the first time in the history of Independent India, a “state of the Indian Union had its powers taken away; it has never happened before. The rights of the people have been snatched today. People of Jammu and Kashmir do not rule themselves. It is bureaucrats from UP and Gujarat who are ruling J&K.”

Explaining why he had called himself “a Tamil” while responding to a journalist’s question about his speech in Parliament, Rahul said he had given himself the right to that description in the wake of the “very sad experience for me in losing my father”.

Referring to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in Tamil Nadu in 1991, Rahul said in a choked voice: “My blood is mixed with your soil.”

Iterating that India is a Union of states, Rahul likened the coming together of various states to form the Union to “letters in a language forming a word, words forming a sentence and sentences becoming a poem”.

“A state starts from the land, from the land come the people, from the people come the voices that form a language and from language comes culture, from culture comes history and from history comes a state,” Rahul said.

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