Institutional Framework & Press Freedom In India Under Threat : Rahul Gandhi

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that there was definite capture of institutions in India, while speaking to the media at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on June 2nd, 2023.

Rahul Gandhi who is on a three-city tour in the US said, “There is a clampdown on the institutional framework that enabled conversations between many cultures and social groups,” adding that “press freedom is crucial for a democratic society”.

Opening up on the issue during a free-wheeling conversation with scribes in the US capital, Mr Gandhi said press freedom is very critical for a functional democracy and one should be open to criticism. He alleged that there was a clampdown on the institutional framework, which enabled the national discourse.

“There is definitely a weakening of press freedom in India. It is apparent in India and the rest of the world can see it too. Press freedom is very critical for a democracy. One should be open to criticism. There is a clampdown on the institutional framework that allowed India to talk and Indian people to negotiate. I view India as a negotiation between its people, between different cultures, languages and histories. Mahatma Gandhi set up the framework to enable that negotiation fairly and freely. That structure, which allows this negotiation, is coming under pressure,” he said.

He alleged further that was a “definite capture of institutions and press” back home.”I don’t believe everything I hear. I walked across India and spoke to millions of Indians, they didn’t seem very happy to me. They agreed that there were serious issues such as inflation,” Rahul Gandhi said.

At his first public appearance after landing in the United States, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi told an invite-only audience at the University of Santa Cruz’s Silicon Valley campus in Santa Clara, California that India is like an ocean facing a storm, and that this too shall pass. He was responding to specific question on what is often viewed as social engineering in the country, led by the governing BJP’s Hindutva principles.

“India is like a huge ocean,” Gandhi said. “And all oceans will have storms. When the storm comes, one way of looking at it is that this is a huge disaster, and it’s the end of the road. I think the correct way of looking at it is, India is facing a storm, and the storm is going to pass. Let us face the storm bravely and effectively. And let us make sure that when the storm passes, we have a new India, a forward-looking India, in place.”

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said that a country must have independent institutions which are not pressurized by anyone, at a media interaction in Washington. He arrived in the US on May 30 for a three-city tour.

Citing his Bharat Jodo Yatra, he said that when he walked across the country, there was angst among the people. “I walked across India, from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, and spoke directly to millions of Indian people. They didn’t seem happy to me; there were serious issues with rising unemployment and inflation. There was angst among the people,” he said.

Hitting out at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, he said that the BJP was promoting a polarising vision in the country which was damaging India. On a question about the Opposition in India, Rahul said that opposition parties in the country are pretty united. “We’re having conversations with all the Opposition. I think quite a lot of good work is happening,” he said. “It’s a complicated discussion because there are spaces where we have competing also with (other) Opposition (parties). So, it’s a little bit of give and take as required. But I’m confident that that will happen,” he said.

Last week, Indian Overseas Congress chairperson Sam Pitroda said Rahul Gandhi’s visit is aimed at promoting shared values and a vision of “real democracy”. “The purpose of his (Gandhi’s) trip is to connect, interact and begin a new conversation with various individuals, institutions and media, including the Indian diaspora that is growing in numbers in the United States and abroad to promote the shared values and vision of the real democracy with a focus on freedom, inclusion, sustainability, justice, peace and opportunities world over,” Pitroda said in a statement.

Rahul Gandhi is an Indian politician and leading figure of the Indian National Congress (Congress Party). He was born the son of Rajiv Gandhi, a grandson of Indira Gandhi, and a great grandson of Jawaharlal Nehru, all of whom served as prime ministers of India. His mother, Sonia Gandhi, also played a leading role in the Congress Party after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

Rahul Gandhi entered politics in 2004 when he was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time. In 2013 he was named the Congress Party’s vice president and became its de facto (though never official) candidate for prime minister in the 2014 polls.

He became head of the Congress Party in late 2017 after Sonia Gandhi decided to retire from leadership. The Congress party’s poor performance in the 2019 elections in the Lok Sabha, prompting him to step down from leading the party. In March 2023 Gandhi was convicted of defamation and sentenced to two years in prison for his comment that referred to people with the surname “Modi” as thieves—the same surname as the India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. A day after his conviction, Gandhi was disqualified as the member of the Indian parliament.

Rahul Gandhi arrived in the United States on May 30 on a three-city visit. He is slated to conclude his trip with a public gathering in New York on June 4. The interaction would take place at the Javits Center in New York.

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