An Attempt to Understand the Voice of the People

Shri Rahul Gandhi, MP and former Congress President, addressed Indian Diaspora in Hounslow, West London, UK, on March 05, 2023.

Sam Pitroda Ji, Virendra Sharma Ji, Member of Parliament, Kamal Dhaliwal Ji, other senior leaders who are sitting on the stage, IOC members, brothers and sisters… I can also see some children… so, all of you, I would like to welcome all of you and thank you for coming here today.

It is an honour for me to come here and speak to you.

I was actually invited to Cambridge University to give a talk there on Indian politics and global politics, which I did and it was quite a nice atmosphere, nice talk. I was thinking while I was speaking over there that it is quite strange that an Indian political leader can give a talk in Cambridge University, Harvard University but he can’t give a talk in an Indian University.

The reason is that our government simply does not allow any idea of the Opposition, any concept of the Opposition to be discussed. Same happens in the Parliament house. When there are important things that we need to speak about… demonetisation, GST, the fact that the Chinese are sitting inside our territory… When we try to raise these questions, we are not allowed to raise them in the House. It is a fact. It is shameful but it is true, and this is not the India that all of us are used to.

Our country is an open country… a country where we pride ourselves on our intelligence, respect each other’s opinions, listen to each other and that atmosphere has been destroyed. You can see the narrative in the media, and the reason we were forced to walk across India… the ‘Bharat Jodo Yatra’… was because all the institutions that protect the democracy, that allow people to speak, that allow an expression of voice are captured by the BJP, and so we decided that a good way to think about it, a good way to act would be to go directly to the people of India and do what used to be our tradition called the Yatra.

Yatra is not just a walk across the country. Many great people in India have gone on a Yatra. Of course, the most famous Yatra was the one done by the ‘Father of the Nation’ Mahatma Gandhi but there have been others. There is a list of people who have used this idea of the Yatra, and the Yatra is actually introspection. It is an attempt to understand what is going on in the country, an attempt to listen to the people, but also an attempt to understand the voice of the people and express that voice.

So, it was a wonderful experience for me. I started in Kanyakumari and we went all the way to Kashmir… thousands of kilometres in the heat, in rain, in the snow and we got to understand our country in great detail. We spoke to thousands and thousands of people.

The most interesting thing was that the biggest issues in India today are unemployment, price rise and the violence that Indian women face. That third one is a hidden issue, nobody speaks about it but when you walk across India and you talk to people, those are the three things that you hear… most women complaining about the violence that they are facing... the fact that they are worried to walk on the streets of our country, huge amount of unemployment & price rise and the concentration of wealth… One or two business people controlling pretty much every business… everybody knows the name. When there is no competition in a country and one person is making all the money because of his political connections, the strength of the country and the energy of the country is wasted and withered.

So, one of things that we have been pushing is that we need to allow as many youngsters who want to enter business…we need to support all of them. We need to make sure that the banking system doesn’t just work for one or two people but works for youngsters, for millions of people who want to build a business.

So, these are the types of things that we discussed on the Yatra and it was a very good experience. Also, I would like to thank many of you who walked with us… you came from different parts of the world, you came from England, you came from the United States, from Canada, from Japan. From all over the world, people came and walked with us… so that helped us. You helped us with your support and your energy… so, I would like to thank all of you for that.

In the first 5 or 6 days, I started to ask myself… what is my role in the Yatra, what do I have to do and after thinking about it for a while, I decided that my role was that whoever came into the yatra, regardless of whether they were rich or poor, young or old, male or female, I decided that my role would be to make them feel that when they walked inside the rope, when they entered the Yatra and they came to speak to us then they should feel that they had come back home, they should get a feeling that they had come back home and they were not speaking to a politician, but they were speaking to their brother, their friend.

That was a very powerful thing, because the moment we started to behave like that, the moment we started to say- look this is… we are going to treat people with respect, immediately the people who were coming, started to treat us like family and you must have seen some of the pictures, where it was… as if we were meeting a family member, people hugging us, people telling us very emotional things. And the other thing I noticed was that throughout this walk, people of all religions came, all castes came, all languages came, but there was no anger, no hatred, no violence, no disrespect.

So, the Yatra was demonstrating to the whole country what the real India is about, what Indian values are, what our religions tell us, what our different languages tell us, what our different cultures tell us that we are one country with many-many different ideas and we have the capability of living together harmoniously, without hatred, without anger, without disrespect and if we are going to do that, we are successful. On the other side, we have an ideology of hatred and violence, a disrespectful ideology that attacks people because of their ideas.

If you noticed the statement of the Foreign Minister… he said- China is much more powerful than us, how can I pick a fight with them...that clearly means that at the heart of the ideology is ‘Cowardice’.

If we had followed the BJP’s Principles and the RSS’ Principles that if they (enemies) are stronger than us, we don’t fight with them, then we would still be ruled by the British! So, this is a fight between ‘Courage’ and ‘Cowardice’. It’s a fight between ‘Respect’ and ‘Disrespect’. It is a fight between ‘Love and Hatred’. And that is the message that I would leave you with. As a community in this country, you have done us all very proud and of course, you have done us proud because you have been successful, because you made a lot of money, you developed a lot of businesses, but that’s not the real reason you made us proud. The real reason you made us proud is because you respect the people you live with, you respect the different cultures, you respect the fact that you are living in England, you listen to their perspective, you embrace their perspective, you tell them about our perspective and in that way, both groups of people improve and do better. So, you have shown in your living here, you have shown what an actual Indian person should be doing…. living peacefully, affectionately with respect, listening to other people, learning from other people and also as a result of our history, as a result of our tradition… teaching other people what we know.

So, I would like to end by thanking all of you for making our country proud by being a shining example of what it means to be Indian, of being respectful, of being loving and affectionate to everybody around. Thank you very much! Jai Hind!