Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday hit out at the government, saying it is standing contrary to the country’s democratic structure, constitutional values and established traditions.
In a statement, she also said the biggest tribute to the soldiers killed in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley will be to protect the country’s territory and thwart Chinese incursions.
The Congress president did not attend the Independence Day flag-hoisting ceremony and instead veteran leader AK Antony unfurled the tricolour at the party headquarters in Delhi.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi was among the leaders present on the occasion but he did not speak to the media.
The Congress also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not taking China’s name in his Independence Day speech.
“We all are proud of our armed, paramilitary and police forces. We 1.3 billion Indians and all Congress workers are proud of them. Whenever there has been attack on us, they have given a befitting reply to the attackers,” Congress’s chief spokesperson, Randeep Singh Surjewala, told reporters after the ceremony at the party headquarters.
“But we must also think why our rulers are scared of taking China’s name. Today, on the Independence Day, when China has occupied our territory, every Indian should ask the government how it proposes to push the Chinese forces back and protect our territorial integrity. Why are those who are sitting in power scared of mentioning China’s name?” he asked.
In his Independence Day speech from the ramparts of Red Fort, Prime Minister Narendra Modi delivered a sharp message to China and Pakistan, declaring that the armed forces deployed along the borders with them are capable of giving a fitting reply to those trying to challenge India’s sovereignty. However, he did not take the names of the two countries.
“Today is the 60th day when our Colonel Santosh Babu and 20 other soldiers sacrificed their lives for the nation’s security in Galwan Valley (in a deadly clash with Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh). I salute their bravery and urge the government to remember their valour and give due recognition to them. Our biggest tribute to them would be protecting the motherland and thwarting Chinese incursions,” Gandhi said in her statement.
“Today every countryman needs to look within and think what does freedom mean? Are they free today to write, to speak, to ask questions, to disagree, to seek accountability? As a responsible opposition this is our responsibility to keep India’s democratic freedom intact,” she said.
“We have tested our democratic values from time to time in the last 74 years of independence. Today, it seems that the government is standing contrary to the country’s democratic structure, constitutional values and established traditions. It is also a test for Indian democracy,” added Gandhi.
The Congress president expressed confidence that India will unitedly defeat the Covid-19 pandemic and overcome the economic crisis.
On the 74th Independence Day, the Congress also launched a web-series titled ‘Dharohar’.
“Congress has been at the forefront in the efforts to create an India, which is a global leader in the industry, agriculture, science, technology, health, military, culture and all this without ever compromising on its secular and democratic nature,” Surjewala and party’s social media department head Rohan Gupta said in a statement.
‘Dharohar’ will showcase the history of the Congress and its contributions to India – right from the freedom struggle to the emergence of India as a superpower in 70 years of its independence, added the statement.
In Kolkata, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said the people must do all it takes to preserve the basic principles on which this country was founded.
“We salute all those who sacrificed their lives to make the dream of a ‘free nation’ come true. Our freedom was hard-earned, and we must do all it takes to preserve the basic principles on which this country was founded,” she tweeted.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) said it will continue its fight to defend the Constitution of India, which was “under severe strain”.
“We pledge to continue our fight in defence of the Constitution and against attack on fundamental rights. This freedom was hard-earned and any attempt to curb it will be fought back,” the CPI(M) tweeted.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury tweeted: “Today is the day to renew our pledge to secure all types of freedoms — economic, social, political — for Indians of all regions, faiths, languages, genders and beliefs, especially in these times when our Constitutional Republic is under severe strain.”
Andhra Pradesh chief minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy hoped the Centre would have a change of heart, if not today in the future, and accord special category status (SCS) to his state in accordance with the promise made in Parliament.