Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday said the party must defend liberty and freedom of individuals and institutions and accused the Bharatiya Janata Party government of encouraging those who flout the law and unleash oppression.
Speaking at a special Congress Working Committee meeting here to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Quit India Movement, she also expressed concerns over the rise in cases of 'self vigilantism' and said not a day passed when the liberty of individuals was trampled upon.
"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," she said.
Hitting out at the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, she said as the Congress saluted the patriots who struggled, "We must not forget that there were organisations 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."
The CWC passed two resolutions on the 75th anniversary of the Quit India movement and re-dedicated itself to uphold and defend the idea of India as envisioned by the leaders of the freedom movement.
It also resolved to fight back and defeat the forces which seek to destroy the country's heritage.
The CWC, the highest decision-making body of the Congress, passed another resolution condemning the attack on party vice president Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat.
Rahul skipped the meeting as he was down with a viral infection and Sonia chaired it. A number of top Congress leaders including A K Antony, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, P Chidambaram, Ambika Soni, Karan Singh, Digivijay Singh and Anand Sharma attended it.
Sonia's remarks come on a day when the party petitioned the Election Commission for cancellation of two votes of its 'disgruntled' MLAs during Rajya Sabha election in Gujarat in which the Congress president's political secretary Ahmed Patel is contesting.
Noting that she was anguished by the assault on freedom and the threat to liberty by self-appointed vigilantes, she accused the government of encouraging and empowering those who flouted the law.
"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," she said.
All India Congress Committee in-charge of communication Randeep Surjewala also said that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh expressed concerns during the meeting about India's youth and peasantry as also multiple problems persisting post demonetisation and GST.
"The Congress has rededicated itself to those values and also resolved to defend the foundational values and principles of India's constitution, its inclusive and secular and democratic character rand to defy the forces which seek to destroy our shared heritage," he said.
Sharma said the Congress Working Committee also took note of the serious attack on Rahul in Gujarat and condemned it in unequivocal terms.
"To that effect the Congress has made it clear that the forces of violence leased by the BJP and its associates have no place in civilised public discourse and democracy. The Congress therefore is determined to fight back and confront and defeat the forces of violence and the resolution making it clear that Congress voice and truth cannot be silenced by such attacks," he said.
The meeting discussed the contribution of the Congress in the movement and paid homage to the thousands of party workers who participated in the movement on the 'do or die' call given by Mahatma Gandhi and died due to the 'brutal repression inflicted by the British'.
Sonia said liberty is the lifeline of democracy and takes within its sweep, the 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," she said.
The resolution passed at the CWC also said that 'taking note of and expressing its grave concern over the planned and systemic assaults on the foundational values of the country, and the constitutional rights of our citizens, the Congress re-dedicates itself to uphold and defend the idea of India as envisioned by the leaders of the freedom movement'.
'The CWC on this historic day revolved anew to fight back and defeat the forces which seek to destroy our precious heritage,' the resolution said.