THE MADHYA Pradesh government’s decision to invoke the stringent National Security Act (NSA) against three persons arrested on charges of cow slaughter was “wrong” and Congress president Rahul Gandhi has asked the Kamal Nath government to correct the “mistake”, senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said on Friday.
“The government has been told that was wrong. I think the Congress president has told the people concerned that was wrong… Use of NSA in Madhya Pradesh was wrong. That has been pointed out to the government in Madhya Pradesh. So if a mistake has been committed, that mistake has been pointed out by the leadership,” he said.
Chidambaram was speaking at the release of his book, Undaunted — Saving The Idea of India, a collection of his weekly columns in The Indian Express. While the book was released by former Vice-President Hamid Ansari, AICC general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, her husband Robert Vadra and AICC treasurer Ahmed Patel were among those present.
“This is a well-written, well-argued, exceedingly relevant book, and a book about which I can say that I read week after week. But it is a very useful compilation, very relevant compilation and I am sure everybody will derive knowledge and wisdom from it,” said Ansari.
Kapish Mehra, managing director of Rupa Publications, and Anant Goenka, The Indian Express Group Executive Director, also spoke at the function. Participating in a panel discussion with Salman Khurshid, Lok Sabha MPs Sushmita Dev and Dinesh Trivedi, and journalist and columnist T C A Srinivasa Raghavan, Chidambaram said an all-pervading fear, the capture and undermining of institutions, and irreparable damage caused to the farming community were causing anxiety.
“One by one, institutions are falling. I am waiting to see what the Election Commission will do. This Rs 2,000 (farm income support scheme), which I call cash for vote, will be distributed by February 28. The notification (for elections) will come on March 4 or 5. Will the Election Commission allow the second instalment to be distributed? If it does, that institution has also fallen,” he said.
Chidambaram said since 2015 he has been writing about “what is happening in India”, which in 2018 shifted to “what is happening to India”. “What is happening in India is repairable. But what is happening to India, if we don’t stop it now, is irreparable,” he said.
He said the battle for 2019 is all about saving the idea of India as a multi-cultural society.
Raghavan, on the other hand, said the Indian Constitution is flawed as it vests power through excessive process in the hands of the bureaucracy. “It is the only Constitution, which on the one hand talks about freedoms, the wonderful freedoms, and on the other hand systematically proceeds to circumscribe those freedoms…via processes,” he said, adding “don’t blame the politicians. They are victims of the structure and they will be very stupid if they don’t use it to their advantage.”
Dev hit back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for saying that the mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) is going to be a mahamilavat (grand adulteration). “Mahamilavat will mean many voices and if we don’t listen to you, some other party in that coalition will, but the doors will not shut,” the Mahila Congress chief said.
Former External Affairs Minister Khurshid said the last four years have made the Sachar Committee irrelevant and Muslims have gone silent. “They are no longer protesting. As a minority minister, I used to hear protests everyday… today, nobody complains. This silence of a large community can be bad for our country. Simply because they are beginning to feel that there is nobody to speak for them,” he said.
Trivedi said four senior-most judges of the Supreme Court had come out and said that democracy is in danger. “There was another observation by the Supreme Court… that mobocracy is the new normal…” the Trinamool MP said.