New Delhi: “Bachana hai Bharat ko” was a common slogan among the large crowd that came from different parts of the country to the Ramlila ground, New Delhi, for the Congress’ Bharat Bachao Rally.
Senior party leaders, including Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, P Chidambaram, Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, addressed the gathering that was organised to protest against the “failed” policies of the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the Centre.
Also present at the event were Congress chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh - Kamal Nath, Chhattisgarh - Bhupesh Baghel, and Rajasthan - Ashok Gehlot.
News18 spoke to some of the people who attended the event on what brought them to the rally. Most of them expressed strong views against the amended citizenship Act, and said the rally was their way to register their protest against the "unconstitutional values" and "communal premise" of the new legislation. Some of them also voiced concerns about the failing economy and how agriculture has been affected over the last few years.
Need to Remind Old Times of Unity
The youth think the country has recently gained independence, said Gajraj Singh, a former Congress MLA from Hapur, while adding the rally was needed to inform them about the progress the country made in the past few decades.
“The new Act is designed on communal lines. We don’t need this division, we need to recall our times of unity and how the country progressed over a period of time. The youth don’t know. They think the country gained independence in these six years,” he said.
“'Bharat ko bachana hai' (Have to save India) and hence, the rally. I have seen the time when we didn’t even manufacture a needle, and today we have aircrafts. There were cart wheels, and we have progressed to tractors. At one point, people couldn’t even afford cycles, and soon there was a motorcycle in every household. (Then came) televisions, gas facilities, loans, schools, degree colleges in tehsils and fertilisers for farmers. Everything that was needed to develop a country was there. As an old person who has been a witness to the young nation’s progress, I need to tell the youth about this,” Singh said.
Pema Ram, a villager from Rajasthan, said, “The new legislation is a direct attack on the Constitution written by BR Ambedkar. People have taken to the streets to protest, as their autonomy and agency have not been kept in mind. We have now been divided, again, and on the lines of religion. We are here to register our protest and remind people that ‘Hindustan aisa thodi hai? Sab bhai bhai hain’ (India is not like that, we live in brotherhood).”
Suresh Kumar Joshi from Chittorgarh said, “‘Humne toh nahi dekhe Allah aur Ram, humne dekhein Atal Bihari aur Abdul Kalam’ (We have not seen Allah and Ram, we have seen Atal Bihar [Vajpayee] and Abdul Kalam). There was a time when we had leaders who did not look at the country in terms of Hindu or Muslim population. We are one and we should fight for it.”
Former finance minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said that in six months, the Modi government has wrecked the country’s economy. The Rajya Sabha MP, who was released from jail recently after spending over 100 days in Tihar for alleged misappropriation of funds, spoke on unemployment and slowdown.
The former Union finance minister said there is bad news for the country every day. “Food inflation is at 10%, factory output is 1.38%, while trade has come down over the last six months.”
A man from Farrukhabad, who came with a group of villagers, said, “In our village, the railway line was shifted to Hardoi and now we are prone to floods. Is the idea of ‘vikas’ (development) to take from one and give it to another?”
Krishna Gopal, former pradhan from the same village, said, “There is unemployment. We know the GDP is at an all-time low, they have failed to deliver on most of their promises. Where is the promised Rs 15 lakh in our accounts?”
A farmer from Maharashtra said, “Our income is a big concern. So many farmers have committed suicide in our state. The central policies are not enough. The economy has almost come to a standstill. The government has not initiated any proper measure to deal with job losses coupled with inflation.”