New Delhi, Nov 18:
Congress leaders, including party vice president Rahul Gandhi, Tuesday accused the Narendra Modi government of wishing “to rub out” Jawaharlal Nehru’s legacy as an international conference commemorating the 125th anniversary of India’s first prime minister saw leaders from India and abroad pay glowing tributes to the builder of modern India.
The two-day conference ended Tuesday with a declaration that resolved to nurture values espoused by Nehru and to work towards a world where territorial boundaries become irrelevant.
The event saw participation from many parties of undivided Janata Dal, Communist Party of India-Marxist and Trinamool Congress, but Prime MInister Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party was not invited.
Congress leader Anand Sharma, who was the convenor of the organising committee, accused the BJP-led government of “creating hurdles” in holding the event.
Both Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi made veiled attacks on the BJP.
Sonia Gandhi, who chaired the conference, said in her concluding remarks that there was a need to not only adhere to the principles of democracy, secularism and inclusiveness but to fight hard to strengthen them.
“Nehruvian consensus is under challenge in today’s India. It remains the firm basis on which the nation was founded,” she said.
Rahul Gandhi said at the valedictory session that there were those who wished to rub out Nehru and urged partymen to stand up for their beliefs whatever the cost.
“He (Nehru) is an ancient idea, yes, but he is also a part of living India. His ideas and politics are very much present today even though there are those who wish to rub him out, to erase him and legacy from the country he so deeply treasured and helped build,” he said.
The conference was attended by delegates from 20 countries and 29 political parties.
Foreign leaders who attended the conference included former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, former Ghana president John Kufuor, Queen Mother of Bhutan Ashi Dorji Wangmo Wangchuck, former Nepal prime minister Madhav Nepal and former Egyptian foreign minister Amr Moussa. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh also addressed the valedictory session.
Rahul Gandhi said it was important that people preserved “this India of Nehru, an India which is secular and tolerant”.
“Today this legacy, that has denied no man or woman their voice, and that we have fought to preserve for close to 70 years is more important than ever,” he said.
“Let us not diminish Nehru but let us learn from him. Let us learn to stand up for what we believe is correct, no matter the cost. Let us cast aside the dead weight of hatred and intoleance. Let us learn from Nehru’s example and give ideas the freedom to flow, let us never suppress an idea simply because it did not originate from us,” he added.
The Congress vice president said Nehru was a “man of ideas but not an ideologue” and he “never forced his ideas on anyone”.
Rahul Gandhi said Nehru defended the rights of those he did not agree with and never imagined silencing them.
“India became a liberal democracy with a rule of law, independent judiciary and press overwhelmingly due to the first prime minister.”
He said Nehru’s planning gave India the right to choose its destiny. “That’s why India stands where it does.”
Manmohan Singh said Nehru was a freedom fighter, a leader of great compassion and strong convictions.
He said Nehru saw socialism not merely as an economic doctrine, but as a way of life which called for a profound transformation in the habits and instincts of men.
He said Nehru’s brilliance lay in being able to contextualise socialism for India, in the global context.
Manmohan Singh said Nehru’s world view and message was relevant in every corner of the globe today.
South African political activist and freedom fighter of Indian descent Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada, who spoke at the plenary session, said Nehru would have powerfully raised his voice for the struggle of the Palestinian people.
The conference also expressed its support for the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people to freedom and statehood.