Rahul Gandhi made strong remarks on freedom of expression on Independence Day as he unfurled the national flag at the Congress Party's headquarters in New Delhi.
"When the forces of darkness threaten this liberty for some of us, as we saw in recent times, we must remember that freedom can never be for the few — it has to be for everyone. Every human being in India has the right to dignity and the freedom to live and express themselves freely," he said.
Rahul hoisted the tricolour at the All India Congress Committee offices in Delhi for the first time since he took over as the Congress Vice-President three years ago. Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who usually does this at the party office, was discharged yesterday from a private hospital after being admitted with fever and shoulder injury. Senior party leaders, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, A.K. Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma were present on the occasion.
Rahul said the generation which earned us freedom from the British may no longer be around, but the Constitution remains their precious gift. "It embodies the values, principles and ideals for which they fought, values they hoped would guide our brave young country. Now it is up to us." His remarks come against the backdrop of attacks on Dalits and Muslims by cow vigilantes in the past few months.
Several Congress leaders criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Independence Day speech from the Red Fort, especially his policy towards Pakistan. Salman Khurshid, a former external affairs minister, cautioned Modi against undesirable combativeness on Balochistan, as a report in The Telegraph pointed out.
"PoK (Pakistan-occupied Kashmir) is our right. Our entitlement. We will support it. But by bringing in Balochistan, you are ruining our case.... We are going to ruin our own case on PoK," Khurshid said.
In his speech, Modi had condemned India's neighbour's tendency to "glorify" terrorists and spoke of alleged atrocities in Balochistan, Gilgit and PoK.
Soon after Rahul had hoisted the national flag at the party headquarters, Khurshid told reporters: "The wild pronouncements about Balochistan... I do not know who advised the Prime Minister [to do this]... Balochistan is a different kettle altogether. We have no business (there). Modi should learn foreign policy from (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee."
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh dwelt on the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh's role in the freedom struggle in a series of tweets.
He questioned Modi's affiliations as a nationalist.
The Congress party's communications chief, Randeep Surjewala, criticised the Prime Minister for his "silence" on judicial appointments in a couple of tweets as well.
(Written with PTI reports.)
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