New Delhi: The “entire country is being pushed and beaten up, so it’s no big deal if I got pushed too”, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said Tuesday as he talked about his struggle with the Uttar Pradesh Police last week while on his way to Hathras to meet the family of the alleged gangrape victim who died on 29 September.
“Hamara kaam hai desh ke saath khada hona, aisee sarkar hai ki laathi padhegi… kha lenge (it’s our job to stand with the country, the government is such that we will face canes, so we will endure it),” Gandhi added.
The Congress MP was addressing a press conference at Patiala in Punjab, where he has been leading a three-day rally against the controversial farm laws since Sunday. He will move on to Haryana after Punjab to continue his protests against.
Asked about his showdown with the UP Police, which tried to block his and sister Priyanka Gandhi Vadra’s visit to Hathras, Gandhi said the real “dhakka” or “jolt” was faced by the family of the victim.
“It is unimaginable what that family has had to go through. Suppose someone kills your child, then locks you in, then the DM (district magistrate) comes and tells you all the protestors will go away, Rahul Gandhi will go away but we will stay, then what will happen to you?” Gandhi said.
“That is why I went there. I wanted to tell the family they are not alone… Interesting… that all of this happened and the PM hasn’t said a word on the incident.”
During the press conference, Gandhi also took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for never holding press meets, accused sections of the media of not doing their job of questioning the government, and lashed out at allegations that the opposition is weak.
‘Give me free press, free institutions’
Gandhi made a scathing attack on sections of the Indian media when he was questioned on accusations that the Indian opposition is disintegrated and “weak”.
“An opposition in any country functions within a framework. The framework is the press, it is the judicial system…that entire framework has been captured,” he said.
“If the entire institutional architecture is captured, then to say it is a weak opposition is not correct. Give me a free press, give me institutions that are free, I don’t have that,” he added.
Gandhi also accused the media of not making enough noise on the India-China standoff, and the subsequent “capturing of a portion of Indian land by China” in June.
“I don’t think there is any other place in the world where one country can occupy 1,200 sq km by another country and the media makes no noise,” Gandhi said.
“At a certain level, frankly, you are not doing your job. It is easy to say weak opposition But my friend you are walking into slavery,” Gandhi added.
‘Modi gave away part of Bharat Mata’
Gandhi said PM Modi speaks of ‘Bharat Mata’ but “gave away land to China”.
“Modi ji Bharat Mata ki baat karte hain. Unhone Bharat Mata ke 1,200 sq km China ko dediya hai. Aap kabhi bulaiye Modi ji ko khulke baat karne ke liye (Modi speaks of Bharat Mata. But he has given 1,200 square km of land to China. Please invite him for an open discussion),” he added.
Gandhi then hit out at PM Modi’s record of not holding press conferences.
“He is scared of you (the media) for the same reason he is scared of China. Because he thinks both will ruin his image. He is only obsessed with his image,” Gandhi said.
‘Owe a debt to Punjab’
Gandhi hit back at the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), which has broken ties with the NDA over the farm laws and questioned the Congress leader for his absence from Parliament when they were up for passage last month.
“My mother (Sonia Gandhi) had gone for a medical check-up and my sister could not go with her because some members of her staff tested positive. I am also her son after all, and I have to look after her,” Gandhi said.
The leader also said he stands by Punjab, where the protests against the farm laws have been particularly intense, and feels like he “owes a debt” to the state.
“I remember, in 1977, when my grandmother (Indira Gandhi) lost the elections, there was no one in my house. There were only Sikhs in my home. I remember that. I feel like I owe a debt to the people of Punjab,” he added.
Gandhi also said he will always stand by people against whom injustice is being done.
“Look at my actions. Land acquisitions, MGNREGA, farms laws. I have been abused and beaten up. But if I feel injustice is being done in Punjab, I will stand here. If I feel injustice is being done to the Dalit girl in Hathras, I will stand there,” he said.
“I see my political career would have been much easier if this weren’t the case, but it is… what can I do about that? That is who I am,” he added.
On being questioned about the Congress’ 2019 manifesto, which promised similar reforms as brought by the farm laws, Rahul said, “Our manifesto clearly said that we will develop an agricultural structure, a farmers’ structure. We won’t just suddenly destroy the food security system.”