Kolkata: “Why is the 2024 Lok Sabha election important? You should know that you are electing the Constituent Assembly (Samvidhan Sabha) once again. Because if the Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies return to power, the Constitution, which grants liberty to Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, and women, may not endure,” said former Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer and social activist Harsh Mander to a gathering in Kolkata on Tuesday.
The INDIA Alliance may not have declared their seat-sharing plans for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls yet, but civil society in West Bengal is mobilizing people to vote for INDIA. The United Forum of Vote for INDIA organized a rally in the heart of Kolkata- Dharamtalla, with participants including members of the Matua community, Dalits, and Muslims. Prominent social and human rights activists, such as Harsh Mander, Raj Ratan Ambedkar, and Nadeem Khan, also participated from Delhi and Mumbai and addressed the gathering.
During his speech, Harsh Mander mentioned Mahatma Gandhi’s stay in Kolkata shortly after independence. He said, “When India gained freedom, Gandhi Ji was not in Delhi to celebrate it; he was in Kolkata. And why was he in Kolkata? There was so much bloodshed between Hindus and Muslims after independence that Gandhi Ji vowed to stop it. He went on a fast and declared that he would not break it until the violence ceased. And it did.”
Mander continued, “Today, a similar situation is unfolding in India. Hatred is pervasive, from Assam to Haryana, Manipur to Uttarakhand. There is no Gandhi Ji or Ambedkar to stop it. So, who will stand against this hate? We must pledge to stop it. We, as a fraternity, must work together to protect our country.”
The former bureaucrat turned activist also recalled the famous poem by Rabindranath Tagore: “Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, where knowledge is free…” He emphasized that great leaders like Gandhi Ji, Netaji, Tagore, and Bhagat Singh had a dream for a certain India, and it is up to the fraternity to make that dream a reality by working together to protect the country.
Raj Ratan Ambedkar, the great-grandson of Bhim Rao Ambedkar, stated, “This election is not a battle between two parties but between two ideologies. One ideology believes in justice, freedom, and liberty in this country, while the other believes in inequality based on caste and religion.”
He urged the audience not to sell their votes for money or liquor, emphasizing that the most significant right they have is to elect the government they want for the next five years. He encouraged them to choose their government wisely and not vote for those who aim to turn the country into a Hindu Rashtra. Parliament, he stressed, is not meant for spreading religion.
Nadeem Khan, a human rights activist, pointed out that even the revolutionary land of Bengal allowed the entry of the BJP. He emphasized the diversity within the state, including Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and Muslims.
Addressing the Matua community, Khan advised them not to be deceived again regarding citizenship issues. In the last election, Modi visited Bangladesh and even the temple of a community leader to secure their votes, but nothing substantial was done in four years. He reassured them that they have been residing in India for a long time, and by voting together with others, they can secure their rights and citizenship.