Speech delivered by Smt. Sonia Gandhi, Hon'ble Congress President at the Spl CWC Meeting
CWC Meeting [8th August: 1830 hours]
Dr. Manmohan Singh ji,
I welcome you to this meeting of the Congress Working Committee.
We are meeting to commemorate a very special day in the history of modern India. It is a very special day for the Congress party. It was on this day, 75 years ago, that Mahatma Gandhi gave the call, at Gawalia Tank, in what was then Bombay, to launch the final and decisive phase of the struggle for independence. His call, “Do or Die”, was a clarion to the party and to the freedom fighters, and from that day onwards the momentum of the freedom movement was unstoppable.
Let us remember that the entire leadership of the Indian National Congress, and the whole Working Committee, was arrested and imprisoned shortly after August 8, 1942. Many of the leaders and thousands of Congress workers remained in prison until World War II ended three years later in 1945. Let us also pay homage to the thousands of loyal and devoted Congress workers, men and women who sustained the movement from underground in spite of brutal repression inflicted on them by the British authorities.
Millions of people threw themselves into the Quit India movement. They bravely opposed the oppression that was unleashed by the colonial government. While we salute the patriots who were in the forefront of the struggle, we must not forget that there were organizations and individuals who opposed the 1942 movement and actually collaborated with the colonial government. Their political descendants are the very people who today hold high office and have arrogated to themselves the role of torch bearers of our freedom.
Friends, liberty is the lifeline of democracy. Liberty takes within its sweep, freedom of speech; freedom to dissent; freedom of choice; freedom of worship; the rule of law; equality; and social justice. If any of these values is impaired, liberty itself will be diminished and curtailed.
The country has traveled a great distance since 1942. As we pause and take stock on the 75th anniversary of the launch of the Quit India movement, we are deeply anguished by the assault on the freedoms that our people have enjoyed since. Today many sections live in fear, none more than the minorities, the Dalits, the tribals and women. Not a day passes without an incident where the liberty of the individual has been trampled upon by anti-social elements or self appointed vigilantes. Far from curbing their onslaught, the government of the day encourages and empowers them to flout the rule of law and unleash oppression. All this taken together is the biggest threat to liberty, and is the enemy of pluralism and diversity.
The Congress party must always remain on the frontline in defence of liberty and numerous values associated with liberty, and the institutions that go with it. We must never bow before those who assault the liberty of the individual and of society. This is the task history enjoined upon us, to fight every inch of the way until we prevail and re-establish the values on which free India was founded and built since 1947.
For us in the Congress, the 'Quit India' Movement is a reminder that brute force can and must be resisted in the name of freedom; that even when the odds appear to be against us, and the adversary appears all-powerful, we can succeed if we persevere in fighting for the India we believe in and cherish.