03/11/2015 5:17 PM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Sonia Gandhi Leads March Against 'Sinister Campaign' To Spread Hatred

India’s opposition Congress party president Sonia Gandhi shouts slogans against the government during a protest in the parliament premises, in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2015. Tuesday’s protest followed after the speaker of India's Parliament on Monday barred 25 opposition legislators from its sessions for the rest of the week for causing

NEW DELHI -- Leading the political charge against a "sinister campaign" to divide people and spread hatred in the country, Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi led a march from the Indian Parliament to Rashtrapati Bhavan on Tuesday.

In a huge show of force, Congress Party's top leaders including Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Salman Khurshid, as well as former and current Chief Ministers, walked along with Gandhi to President Pranab Mukherjee's residence.

Gandhi presented a memorandum to the president, requesting him to raise concerns about intolerance with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and ask him to counter forces which spread hatred.

"The events that are happening now are part of a predetermined plan," she told the media after meeting with Mukherjee on Tuesday evening.

Gandhi's meeting comes in the wake of a growing agitation against intolerance, which has seen writers, actors, scientists and business leaders, voice concerns and return their awards to protest against communal violence, attacks against free speech and rationalists, and an aggressive push to enforce the beef ban in several states.

Rebuffing accusations of rising intolerance under the Modi government, Bharatiya Janata Party leaders said that the Congress Party is manufacturing reasons to whip up angst against the ruling party, and stall its development agenda.

The BJP also said that the Congress Party organised the march to deflect from recent charges of corruption levelled against Robert Vadra, son-in-law of the Sonia Gandhi.

In a parallel protest near the Indian Parliament, Sikhs raised their voices against the Congress Party to mark 31 years since thousands of their community members were killed in the bloodletting which followed the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi on October, 31, 1984.

Dismissing the BJP government as "beyond redemption," Khurshid said that 1984 Anti-Sikh riots and the Emergency were part of history, and his party had reached out to the Sikh community over the years, but the BJP did not show any remorse.

"Have they even reach out to the family of Dadri," he said. "This government doesn’t understand the word India."

The march to Rashtrapati Bhavan comes one day after Gandhi met with President Mukherjee, who was the first national leader to call for tolerance after the lynching of a Muslim man by a mob alleging that he had slaughtered a cow on September 28 in a village of western Uttar Pradesh.

"I firmly believe that we cannot allow the core values of our civilisation to be wasted… Over the years, the civilization celebrated diversity, promoted and advocated tolerance, endurance and plurality," he said, last month.

Gandhi said that Modi's silence about recent incidents of intolerance suggested a tacit approval of these events. But after maintaining silence for 10 days after the Dadri Lynching, Modi was forced to speak out in the midst of growing criticism.

In his first reaction to concerns about attacks on minorities, last month, Modi said that Indians should fight poverty, not Muslims, while appealing to Indians not to pay heed to hate speeches. "We should follow the path set by the President (Pranab Mukherjee)," he said.

In his first direct reference to the Dadri lynching, Modi said, "Incidents like Dadri and Ghulam Ali are really sad but what is the role of the Centre in these incidents?

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