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Call to strengthen secularism, democracy

A procession being taken out in Bengaluru commemorating the Quit India Movement, on Wednesday. – UNI
 NEW DELHI, Aug 9 - Invoking the spirit of Quit India Movement, Parliament today 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 Sitaram Yechury of CPI(M) 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, adding, in the next five years, India must try to bring positive changes so that it can become inspiration for many other nations.

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, Raj Guru and Sukhdev.

Speaking after Modi, Sonia Gandhi said, “It seems secular, democratic and liberal 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 our country getting freedom,” she said.

After about four 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.

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. – PTI

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