In an apparent reference to the current NDA government at the Centre, Congress president Sonia Gandhi Saturday said “dissent is being stifled” in the country and minorities are feeling “increasingly insecure”.
Speaking at the G K Reddy Memorial National Award function to confer an award posthumously on veteran journalist Vinod Mehta, which was received by his wife, Sonia said “bigotry” was flourishing “unchecked” in the country. Mehta was also editorial chairman of the Outlook group.
“In the present climate, when dissent is being stifled, when the minorities feel increasingly insecure, when the secular fabric of our society is threatened, when bigotry and obscurantism seem to flourish unchecked, we miss Vinod Mehta’s voice. I am confident, however, that our fine younger generation of journalists will take inspiration from his life, and fight the battles that he would have fought, with the same courage and fearlessness,” Sonia said at the event, which was also attended by former prime minister Manmohan Singh.
Sonia, who praised Mehta’s integrity, honesty and commitment to values, said he “never failed to raise his voice against religious intolerance, communal violence and social injustice”. Calling him a “passionate upholder of our democratic and secular ideas”, the Congress president said Mehta was also a “courageous crusader for the causes that he believed were just, and a proud and eloquent advocate of our pluralistic society”. “He sympathised with the disempowered and was not in awe of the rich and powerful. This is why his words carried weight. And that is why, even when he criticised the Congress party, as he often did, we took it constructively,” she said.
Meanwhile, speaking on the sidelines of the function, Singh said, “The democratic values, freedom of press are the most important component of that commitment to democracy. It is the responsibility of the gentlemen and ladies of the media and also those who read and reflect on what the journalists write. It is a mutual obligation.”