Nothing 'Hindu' about what the BJP does: Rahul Gandhi
"I have not read anywhere, in no Hindu book, from no learned Hindu person have I ever heard that you should terrorise, harm people who are weaker than you. So, this Hindu nationalists is a wrong word"
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has hit out at the BJP during an interaction with students and academics in Paris, saying that the governing party is out to get power at any cost and that there is "nothing Hindu" about their actions.
During the interaction on Saturday at the Sciences PO University in Paris, a leading social sciences institution in France, the 53-year-old Opposition leader covered a broad range of topics such as his Bharat Jodo Yatra', the Opposition alliance's fight to defend India's democratic structures, changing global order and other key issues.
He stressed that the Opposition was committed to fighting for the "soul of India" and the country would "come out just fine" from the current "turbulence".
"I've read the Gita', I've read a number of the Upanishads, I've read many Hindu books; there is nothing Hindu about what the BJP does, absolutely nothing," said Gandhi, in response to a question about the rise of "Hindu nationalism" in the country at the interaction, a video of which was released on Sunday.
"I have not read anywhere, in no Hindu book, from no learned Hindu person have I ever heard that you should terrorise, harm people who are weaker than you. So, this idea, this word, Hindu nationalists, this is a wrong word. They're not Hindu nationalists. They have nothing to do with Hinduism. They are out to get power at any cost, and they will do anything to get power They want dominance of a few people and that is what they are about. There is nothing Hindu about them," he said.
Asked about the cases of violence against the Dalit and other minority communities in the country, Gandhi said it requires "political imagination" to combat the issue "head on" and the Opposition is committed to that fight.
"What the BJP and the RSS are trying to do, the heart of what they're trying to do is trying to stop the expression, the participation of lower castes, other backward castes, tribals and minority communities. And, for me, an India where a Dalit person or a Muslim person, tribal person, upper-caste person, anybody, is being mistreated, is being attacked, is not the India I want," he said.
"If the Prime Minister tomorrow morning was to decide there would be no chest thumping and no violence in India, it would stop. It is the direction that the leadership of the country gives, the imagination that the leadership of a country gives that shapes people," Gandhi, now on a tour of Europe, said.
"The feeling right now is that you can do whatever you want and nothing's going to happen to you This is an attack on the soul of India, and the people doing this should pay a price for it," he said.
Referencing his own experiences, the Congress leader pointed to 24 legal cases against him and also the "first time in Indian history" that somebody was given the maximum sentence for criminal defamation. But he stressed that the fight to keep the democratic structure of India is "ongoing and very vibrant".
Gandhi was referring to his conviction in a 2019 defamation case over his Modi surname remark. Last month, the Supreme Court stayed his conviction, paving the way for revival of his Lok Sabha membership.
"We are part of that fight we are going through a process; we are going through turbulence in our democratic structure and there are millions of people who really believe in that democratic structure and are going to defend it with everything that they've got.
"So, it's a fight and also an opportunity to rethink and to reimagine our country. There are many things that can be improved, and I think this is an opportunity, this is a test that many countries go through. And, I think we'll come out just fine in this test," he said.
Asked about the debate around the name of the country, Gandhi noted that both India and Bharat are documented in the Constitution and therefore, the government was acting in "strange ways" because they are "irritated" with the name of the Opposition's Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A.).
"There is something deeper that is going on, which is that people who want to change the name of anything are basically trying to deny history. The fact of the matter is, whether we like it or we don't like it, we have a history. We were ruled by the British, we fought the British, we defeated the British English is spoken by more Indians than English people; it's our own language more than theirs," he said.
"Embedded in that English is a huge history, lot of pain, lot of happiness, imagination, struggle, those things are embedded. And the people who want to change the name want to erase that; they don't want the history of our country is known to our future generations, it disturbs them," he said.
The former Congress president also countered the notion that the majority of India voted for the current government, claiming that 60 per cent of India voted for the current Opposition alliance.
"So, this idea that the majority community is voting for the BJP, is a wrong idea. The majority community actually votes more for us than they vote for them. They do polarise society, they divide society, they spread hatred in society and that is their mechanism. They also happen to have very good relationships with the most powerful, richest crony capitalists in the land, who finance and support them," said Gandhi.
On the issue of crony capitalism, the Congress leader once again targeted the Adani Group to claim that "documentation is available" to back the Opposition's allegations of monopolistic practices.
"What you're having in India today with Mr Adani is so blatant and it's completely so over the top, I don't think there's any other place where this is going on. The gentleman is in pretty much every single business eventually he's going to be held accountable for it," he said.
The session in Paris, the second European city on his tour after Brussels, was moderated by Professor Christophe Jaffrelot, Director of the Centre of International Studies, and chaired by Arancha Gonzalez, Dean of the Paris School of International Affairs at Sciences PO, who asked him about India's foreign policy stance.
"When you're dealing with a country the size of India, we have to have relationships with multiple different countries and as a nation, we act in our interest," Gandhi said, pointing to the development model of China as a particular concern for the world order.
"We have a planet today where the bulk of production, the bulk of manufacturing, the bulk of value addition is being done in China the problem is that for us, we need to think about production in a democratic environment, production in a non-coercive environment and we need to be able to compete with them while giving our people political freedom and economic freedom. So that is really the challenge," he said.
Gandhi had a similar student interaction at INALCO University in the French capital before moving on to Rotterdam in the Netherlands, where he is scheduled for an interaction entitled India in the World' at Universiteit Leiden.