Invoking the spirit of Quit India Movement, Parliament on Wednesday pitched for strengthening secularism and democracy amid Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a determined effort by all sections to rid the nation of ills like communalism, casteism and poverty by 2022.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, however, warned that the “forces of darkness” were trying to destroy the roots of democracy and the “clouds of the politics of division and hate” are hovering over the plural and egalitarian values enshrined in the Constitution.
Parliamentarians paid rich tributes to the freedom fighters and recalled their sacrifices as both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha took up a special discussion on the 75th anniversary of Quit India Movement launched on this day in 1942 by Mahatma Gandhi.
Leaders from all parties were unanimous in underlining the need for strengthening democracy and secularism even as some in the Opposition equated the current situation to that prevailing during the colonial days.
Some Opposition leaders contended that democracy and secularism was under threat today, with CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury warning against creation of “Hindu Pakistan”.
The prime minister, who initiated the discussion in the Lok Sabha, underlined that everyone would need to rise above political and ideological affiliations to rid the nation of ills like communalism, casteism, poverty, corruption and dirt.
He said ideological differences, which are there today, existed even during the freedom struggle and despite the different approaches, everyone had worked for the common goal of Independence.
Corruption, poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition are the greatest challenges that India now needs to overcome and to do that, there is a need to create the same spirit that existed between 1942 and 1947, he said.
Setting 2022, the 75th anniversary of the country’s Independence as the target year, Modi said people should take a pledge of ‘Karenge, Aur Kar Ke Rahenge’ (We will do and surely do).
“In 1942, the clarion call was ‘Karenge Ya Marenge’ (Do or Die) – today it is ‘Karenge, Aur Kar Ke Rahenge.’ The next five years should also be about ‘Sankalp Se Siddhi’, a resolve which will lead us to accomplishment,” Modi said.
He said in the next five years till 2022, India must try to bring positive changes so that it can become inspiration for many other nations.
India’s freedom from colonial rule was not only about India, but a defining moment in ending colonialism in other parts of the world too, the Prime Minister said.
He said from 1857 to 1942, the move towards freedom was incremental, but the years from 1942 to 1947, were transformative and delivered on the objective.
“In 1942, conditions internationally became favourable for India to get independence. Today again, the global conditions are favourable for India,” he said.
The prime minister hailed the role of freedom fighters, saying the struggle for independence saw participation of people from all sections, responding to Mahatma Gandhi’s clarion call in 1942 of ‘Do or Die’.
During his nearly 30-minute speech, he remembered the role played by different leaders in different period of times which include Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Jai Prakash Narayan, Ram Manohar Lohia, Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekar Azad and Raj Guru and Sukhdev.
Modi recalled that even as many senior leaders like Mahatma Gandhi were jailed at the beginning of the Quit India movement, a new generation of leaders emerged to fill the vacuum and take the movement forward.
“The Quit India movement marked the rise of a new leadership. They supported Mahatma Gandhi during the movement,” he said.
Modi said the recollection of movements such as the Quit India was a source of inspiration and the current generation has a responsibility of passing on the legacy of such movements to the future generations.
While talking about the success of collective efforts, he referred to the rollout of the GST and said it could not have been possible without the cooperation of all parties.
He said a similar approach would be required to resolve the problems of the country.
Speaking after Modi, Sonia Gandhi said, “It seems secular, democratic and liberals values are being endangered. The public space for debate and difference of opinion is shrinking…
“Have the forces of darkness emerged? Is there a fear about the existence of a sense of freedom? Are attempts being made to destroy roots of democracy which is based on equality, social justice, law-based system and freedom of expression?” She took digs at the BJP and its ideological mentor RSS, without naming them.
“We should not forget that there were people and organisations which had opposed the Quit India movement and had played no role in getting our country freedom,” she said.
BJP member Kirron Kher shouted “travesty, travesty”, as Gandhi made these remarks but was signalled from the treasury benches to remain quiet.
The Congress has often accused the RSS of playing no role in the freedom movement, a charge vehemently denied by it.
People have to fight for the India they believe in, which is loved by one and all and which was envisioned by the freedom fighters, Gandhi said.
“We can and will not allow the idea of India to be a prisoner to narrow mindedness, divisive and communal ideology.
If we have to preserve freedom, we will have to defeat the forces endangering it. We can’t and we won’t allow sectarian forces to succeed,” she said, asking people to defeat such “repressive” forces.
She also underlined the contributions of the Congress and Jawaharlal Nehru to the landmark episode in India’s struggle for independence, adding that her party’s workers had made countless sacrifices.
After about 4 hours of discussion during which leaders of all parties spoke, the Lok Sabha unanimously adopted a resolution, pledging to work tirelessly in the next five years to build a nation as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi and other freedom fighters.
“We, the representatives of more than 125 crore people, resolve to take along every citizen in working towards building a nation as envisioned by Mahatma Gandhi and other freedom fighters by 2022 when we will celebrate 75th anniversary of our independence,” the resolution said.
The resolution, read out by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, said, “We shall remain committed and dedicated to build a strong, prosperous, clean and glorious India which is free of corruption. We are committed to welfare of all sections and promote harmony and patriotism.”
In the Rajya Sabha, Leader of the House Arun Jaitley said it was the day to commit to make the country a strong, just and economically-progressive country.
He underlined the need for freeing the country from all kinds of violence, be it in the name terrorism, politics or religion.
Jaitley, who holds the portfolios of Defence and Finance, said the country still faces challenges to its security and sovereignty but the armed forces were capable to deal with these.
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad targeted the ruling BJP by equating yesterday’s developments related to the Rajya Sabha polls in Gujarat to the events witnessed when the Quit India Movement was launched on this day in 1942.
After three hours of discussion, the Upper House also adopted a resolution pledging to build a strong, self-reliant, secular and democratic India.
Moving the resolution, Chairman Hamid Ansari said the House recalls that 75 years ago, Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi gave a clarion call to people for “do or die” to end the British Rule while asking the British to quit India.
He said the House observes “on the 75th anniversary of Quit India Movement that it is important to remember the heroic struggle of people, students, peasants, workers and government officials who defied the brutal oppression of the British Raj to launch mass Satyagraha that shook the very foundation of the British Rule.”
The House “solemnly takes a pledge to uphold and safeguard the values and ideals of the freedom movement and rededicate ourselves to build an India that is strong, self- reliant, inclusive, secular and democratic,” Ansari said.