CONGRESS LEADER Rahul Gandhi accused the BJP-led government at the Centre of trying to destroy the diverse culture of the country and invoked Tamil spirit, hours after watching a Jallikattu event – a bull-taming sport held as part of Pongal celebrations – near Madurai on Thursday.
“They believe they can suppress the emotions of Tamil people, they believe they can crush the language of the Tamil people, they can suppress the spirit of the Tamil people,” Rahul told reporters after a visit to the famous Jallikattu arena at Avaniyapuram. “I came here to give them a message that nobody can suppress the Tamil spirit. Suppressing the Tamil spirit is the worst thing you can do to this country as this is the essence and soul of India.”
The visit of the former Congress president to Tamil Nadu came even as the BJP, in an attempt to increase its visibility in the state ahead of the May assembly elections, organised Pongal celebrations in the districts over the past one week, which were attended by the party’s national leaders.
Rahul accused the central government of making moves that are affecting the country’s diverse culture and notions and said he was against promoting one idea, language or notion. “There are many different languages, ideas and all these contribute to our strength and that is my message,” he said.
Rahul said he came to the state to thank the Tamil, language and history, which are essential for the future of India. “They need to be respected by everybody in India,” he said. He said it was his duty to stand with the people of Tamil Nadu and their language, culture and history.
Rahul visited the Jallikattu arena along with senior Congress leaders and Udhayanidhi Stalin, DMK youth leader and son of party chief M K Stalin. He thanked the organisers of the event for the “lovely experience to see Tamil culture and history in action”.
“I am happy to see Jallikattu being organised in a systematic and safe way, bulls and youngsters were safe…,” he said.
Jallikattu was banned by the Supreme Court in 2014, leading to massive protests in the state. It made a comeback two years later after the state government made changes to the central government’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960, which were ratified by the President.
In response to questions about the farmers protests at Delhi borders over three contentious farms laws, Rahul alleged the Centre was not only neglecting the farmers but conspiring to destroy them “because they want to benefit two or three of their friends”. “They want to take the land, produce from farmers and give it to their friends…. Farmers are the backbone of this country… Whenever farmers were weak in India, the country got weaker,” he said. He said the government will be forced to take back the contentious farm laws.
Referring to the LAC standoff with China, he said: “Why is the Prime Minister is silent about the fact that the Chinese are sitting inside Indian territory.”
The BJP targeted the Congress leader over his visit to the Jallikattu event. “Dear @RahulGandhi, Your Govt in 2011 labelled #Jallikattu as cruel & barbaric. Your Party manifesto supported ban on Jallikattu. Today, you are in Tamil Nadu to watch this traditional sport live. Aren’t you insulting lovely Tamil Makkal with your hypocrisy? Happy Pongal,” BJP national general secretary and Tamil Nadu in-charge C T Ravi tweeted, referring to the UPA government adding bulls in the list of performing animals that eventually led to the ban.