India has been imagined and re-imagined for centuries. The courageous men and women who fought non-violently and justly for our liberty imagined a nation where all its children would be free, where none would be discriminated on the basis of their caste, gender, religion or creed. They imagined a tolerant and fair India, who would force no agenda on any of its friends or neighbours but guide them along the path that we had traveled: one of unity and brotherhood.
When I saw the topic of the conclave, I wondered what's happened that we need a reimagination of this beautiful ideal. True, the work of imagination is never over, it is always in constant flow and flux. But what we see today is not a re-imagining. It is a defaming, a maligning of the Indian imagination.
The Indian government has gone to war with its own people because it wants to impose one imagination on 1.3 billion of us. It wants to impose one singular, suffocating memory on our 1.3 billion memories.
What is the nature of this war?
Farmers are committing suicide by the thousands.
The economy is decimated. The rupees is on its knees. Petrol is at an all time high. The stock market has imploded. Twelve Lakh crore in non performing assets and the banking system is jammed shut.
The informal sector has been decimated as a result of demonetisation and an extremely complex multi layered GST. Millions of small and medium business have been wiped out. Public confidence is in tatters.
This my friends is the price of hatred.
Rahul Gandhi: “The Indian government has gone to war with its own people because it wants to impose one imagination on 1.3 billion of us. It wants to impose one singular, suffocating memory on our 1.3 billion memories”
Aspiration is turning into anger.
Dalits and tribals are agitating across the country. Minorities are under vicious attack.
Our friends in the media are sacked when they criticise the PM. Gauri Lankesh is shot dead because of what she wrote. Fresh thinking is unwelcome. In fact, forget about fresh thinking, they hate thinkers: Raghuram Rajan, Amartya Sen, the list goes on.
Institutions are being destroyed. Supreme Court judges are compelled to go public because they feel intimidated. In the same breath that they spoke of their fears, they spoke of Judge Loya. The sole qualification of vice chancellor after vice chancellor chosen to lead India's top universities is that they belong to the RSS.
Many of you in this room are victimised and harassed by the authorities. You face institutionalised extortion and arbitrary cases. I would like to ask how many of you are NRI's. How many of you tell your children not to come back to India after college because things have gone horribly wrong. But I won't ask you that today in sight of all these cameras. Today in India the fear is palpable.
Rahul Gandhi: “Institutions are being destroyed. Supreme Court judges are compelled to go public because they feel intimidated. In the same breath that they spoke of their fears, they spoke of Judge Loya. The sole qualification of vice chancellor after vice chancellor chosen to lead India’s top universities is that they belong to the RSS”
And while India burns, all they do is talk about their slogans. But their slogans have a shelf life: Make in India. Start up India. Clean India. What exactly have they translated into? Nothing
Because the people in charge are convinced that they have a monopoly on knowledge. They are convinced that only they understand. That no one in this country understands anything about India or the dreams of its people except them.
But what is a country if it isn’t a multitude of voices? What is a country if it isn’t a conversation ?
My career in politics has been about fighting for and alongside India's most vulnerable. I fight for farmers rights, for Dalits, for tribals. I dig my heels in and I have a record of delivering to these communities. I've come here because I want to be a mirror for your aspirations and voices too, for all of you in this room. I want to fight for you too.
Everyone in India is a stake holder—all of us, rich or poor, weak or strong, north or south, east or west every voice is a part of the harmony that makes India. We don't subscribe to black or white ideologies, we don't believe in binaries. India is a partnerships between all its people.
So that's why I am here. I'm here to talk but also to listen. I am here to tell you that I value what you have to say. I am here to tell you that I trust you and am extending my hand in friendship. It is time that we build our own partnership so that I can understand your battles and you can understand mine and we can fight alongside each other to protect and the incredible heritage that has brought more than a billion imaginations to light.
We must re-imagine that old India
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high.
Where knowledge is free.
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls.