Democracy Under Attack In India: Rahul Gandhi At Cambridge University
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi during his address at Cambridge University said that he made eye contact with terrorists in Kashmir during his Bharat Jodo Yatra.In a lecture “Learning to Listen in the 21st century” at Cambridge University, Rahul Gandhi shared his experience of Bharat Jodo Yatra in Kashmir.He said, “This is where the thing gets really interesting. So, we are going through all the states and Kashmir is a state which is insurgency prone. There is a lot of violence there … There was a lot of violence for many years. As I am entering Kashmir, the security guys come to me and say, ‘Listen, we need to talk to you. Look the thing is you cannot walk in Kashmir. It is not a good idea.’ We are walking for three days, in the roughest districts. They said you cannot walk in Kashmir, it is a bad idea. I said, ‘Why cannot I walk in Kashmir?’ They are like, ‘Well, you will get hand grenades thrown at you.’ Now I am responsible for 120 people I am walking with.”The Congress MP further said, “I said let me go and have a little word with them. So, I go and have a little word with them. I told them, ‘Look, they are telling us that hand grenades are going to get thrown at us.’ I was like, ‘Frankly I want to walk. If we get hand grenades, we get hand grenades.’ So, they were like, yes, we should all walk. So, we decided we are going to walk. And we started to walk and suddenly what starts to happen is that these Indian flags start coming out everywhere.He said he had to sit on a jeep in between the police and security system were overloaded and collapsed.”The first day, we were told about 2,000 people were going to show up and 40,000 people showed up. I am sitting on that jeep because the police and security system were just overloaded and collapsed. Because they could not manage the crowd.””Then the really interesting thing happened. So, we have been told we are going to be killed. And we are walking. And people are coming and one guy looks at me and he says, ‘Call me. So, I am like, ‘Come’ … And the security people said, ‘Please do not do this … please do not call people, because it is putting everyone at risk.’ So, he comes and he starts walking next to me. And, he says, ‘Mr Gandhi, you have come here to listen to us.’ I am like, ‘yes’. He said, ‘That is interesting.’ He is like, ‘You really come here to listen to us.’ I am like, ‘yes’ and he is like good. And then he says, ‘You see those guys over there?’ And we are walking. I ask, ‘Who?’ He says, ‘Those boys over there.’ He is like, ‘They are militants.’ Now militants should normally kill me.””In that environment, militants should kill me. He says they are there and they are looking at you. So, I look at them and they are giving me this sort of look and I am like, okay, I am now in trouble because this guy has just told me this … They give me this look and I give them this look back and then we carry on. Nothing happens. Why I am telling you this is because they actually could not do anything. They actually did not have the power to do anything even if they wanted to. Because I had come into that environment listening. And I had come into that environment completely with no violence in me at all. And a vast number of people there were saying that. That to me was an indicator of power of listening and non-violence,” Rahul Gandhi added.Rahul Gandhi launched a scathing attack at the Centre during the lecture at Cambridge University, alleging that an attack has been unleashed on the basic structure of Indian democracy while also claiming that Israeli spyware Pegasus was being used to snoop into his phone.Rahul Gandhi claimed that he had been warned by the intelligence officers to be “careful” while speaking on the phone as his calls were being recorded.”I myself had Pegasus on my phone. A large number of politicians had Pegasus on their phones. I have been called by intelligence officers who told me, ‘Please be careful about what you are saying on the phone because we are sort of recording the stuff. So this is the constant pressure that we feel. Cases on the Opposition. I have got a number of criminal liable cases for things that should under no circumstances be criminal liable cases. That’s what we are trying to defend,” the Congress leader said in his address.Rahul Gandhi alleged further that constraints were being put on the Parliament, press and the Judiciary in the country.”Everybody knows and it’s been in the news a lot that Indian democracy is under pressure and under attack. I am an Opposition leader in India, we are navigating that (Opposition) space. The institutional framework which is required for a democracy — Parliament, free press, the judiciary, just the idea of mobilisation, moving around — all are getting constrained. So, we are facing an attack on the basic structure of Indian democracy,” the Congress MP alleged.Sharing a picture of himself in the presentation slide in which he is seen being held by the police personnel, the Congress leader claimed that the Opposition leaders were “locked up” in jail for “just standing” in front of the Parliament House to talk about some issues, while also alleging that such incidents have happened “relatively violently”.”In the Constitution, India is described as a Union of States, and that Union requires negotiation and conversation. It is that negotiation that is under attack and threat. You can see the picture which is taken in front of Parliament House. The Opposition leaders were just standing there talking about certain issues, and we were put in jail. That’s happened 3 or 4 times. It has happened relatively violently. You have also heard of the attacks on minorities and the press. You get a sense of what is going on,” Rahul Gandhi claimed.Notably, Rahul Gandhi-led Bharat Jodo Yatra traversed 12 states and two Union territories in 145 days after its launch on September 7 last year and covered 4,080 km.The yatra culminated with an event at the Congress headquarters in Srinagar and a mega rally on January 30.Congress claimed that Bharat Jodo Yatra was the longest march on foot by any Indian politician in the history of India. The party said it received support from various political parties and social organizations across the country.Congress suffered a debacle in the assembly polls held last year and the Yatra was seen as an attempt to encourage the party rank and file for the upcoming electoral battles.