Professor Rajeev Gowda of INC in Washington

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Sunday, September 16, 2018, Washington, DC — Professor Rajeev Gowda addressed a group of Indians in Bethesda, MD. He is a prominent economist, a member of the Indian Parliament and the Chairman of the Research Department of Indian National Congress party.

Each time I hear a politician speak, my pluralistic radar scans for inclusiveness in the speech of the speaker and warns if the speaker espouses particular ideas, Nazi-like ideas, ideas that believe in the superiority of one group over the other, and if his group has more privileges than the other.

Professor Gowda surprised the heck out of me. The organizer of the event started the event with traditional Hindu prayers, then invited a Muslim to recite a few verses in Arabic and regretted that his Christian friend was not there to say the Christian Prayers. Dr. Gowda, stood up and said, we need to complete the prayers, and recited the prayer of Frances of Assisi. How pleasant it was! 

Tavishi Alagh, a film director/producer and Head of IOC Media, showed a documentary short, that was made for the relaunch of The National Herald.  The film celebrates the Idea of India and all its accomplishments, capturing a diversity of voices who articulate the current attack on this idea and their personal freedoms.  It ends with Nehru’s famous warning that “Freedom is in peril” — an appropriate message for our times.

Although Bharatiya Janata Party is the governing party in India, it had only 21% of the Vote share in their election victory. They won most of the seats in the parliament due to different calculus.

DISCLOSURE:  Please note, much of the writing here is my own not entirely Dr. Gowda’s talk.  I am not affiliated with any political party in India or in the United States, I will remain independent but will support the parties and candidates that respect the otherness of others and believe in inclusive societies. However, I do not support any party to have an overwhelming majority in the legislative bodies – they should be enough but need the help of opposition to pass any bill, the rules should represent values of a majority of the people. It will be a mistake to give a landslide victory to either party, they become arrogant and ignore fellow humans who do not have a voice. Ultimately, all of us will lose our freedom to speak, a birthright of every human.

Dr. Gowda shared his concerns about the economy and how demonetization has crippled ordinary folks. These folks lived on a hand to mouth basis with their meager income and lost their Rupees as they could not exchange the new bills (Notes) due to long lines. Modi’s friends cashed in theirs, but the loser was the small businessman, daily wages wala mazdoor, and old folks who had saved their monies under the pillows. There was no accountability of how Modi’s friends got and not the ordinary people. And,  shamefully nearly 100 people died.

If we had the Republicans in India, they would have investigated the deaths of 100 people endlessly like they did with Benghazi and would have pinned it down on the man responsible for it.

Mistreatment of Dalits, the lynching of Muslims,  killing of Christians, and harassment of Sikhs and India women have risen up sharply since Modi Government took power in 2014.  I wish he learns to condemn evil when it happens, it will curtail some of it, but he chooses to remain silent.

Changing the character of the academic and judicial institutions has begun. Outspoken critics of government like Barkha Dutt, Karan Thapar, and others are banned from appearing on the News channels, if they do, their producers will be harassed.

The media is the only institution that can keep the public informed and held the government on the right path, that is being pushed to obey. India’s democracy is in peril. Indias have made a mistake once by hurting themselves and their freedom, it has to stop now, people need to live freely.

Modi’s devoted followers have created fake news portals, that churn out false news every day from many sites. They are flooding the search engine with misinformation.

There is anger among Indians against the Congress Party for not defending their own accomplishments. When candidate Modi was bashing the Congress party for 4% GDP, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and Party President Sonia Gandhi took the ‘shit’ from him. They should have trashed him back for his ignorance. While India is linked with the world economy, it rises and falls with it, yet, the US and the UK had a growth of 2% while India scored 4%. Dr. Gowda said it was defended, but it was not in public space, it should have been protected by banging on the table.

A young man rightfully asked, why don’t we hear the stellar contributions of the Congress Party from pulling India from food deficient poor nation in 1948 to one of the fourth largest economies in the world. Dr. Gowda acknowledged the need to work on it.

Congress party remains a courteous party, the party of the civilized, and they reign in on the outlandish statement made by any of their members, while outlandish downright hate-filled speeches are made by Ministers and Members of the BJP party,  that is causing tensions and turmoil. It should be matched by equal vitriol.  Mani Shankar Ayer, Priyanka Gandhi, and Shashi Tharoor must be unleashed to respond to the BJP falsities. But Dr. Gowda insisted not to take that route.

The Congress party represents the values of most of the Indians, civilized, courteous, and respectful of others. Now, those Indians who have a responsiblity to preserve their pluralistic ethos must work on electing a party that represents their values.

Dr. Mike Ghouse is a public speaker and the Executive Director of the Center for Pluralism in Washington, DC. He is committed to building cohesive societies and offers pluralistic solutions on issues of the day. More about him at

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