NEW DELHI: The leaders of 19 Opposition parties announced on Friday that they will organise joint protests and demonstrations across the country from September 20 to 30, even as they urged people to save India for a better tomorrow.
After a virtual meeting of the Opposition parties, where they stressed on unitedly moving forward to defeat the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the leaders also put out an 11-point charter of demands before the government.
The demands include a Supreme Court-monitored investigation into the Pegasus snooping row and a high-level probe into the Rafale fighter jets deal, a repeal of three new farm laws, early elections in Jammu and Kashmir and the release of all political detainees in the Union Territory.
“We will jointly organise protest actions all over the country from 20th to 30th September, 2021,” the leaders said in a statement after the virtual meeting convened by Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
They said the forms of these public protest actions will be decided by the respective state units of their parties, depending on the concrete conditions of the Covid regulations and protocols in the states.
These forms, amongst others, may include dharnas, protest demonstrations and hartals, they said in the joint statement.
“We, the leaders of 19 Opposition parties, call upon the people of India to rise to the occasion to defend our secular, democratic, republican order with all our might. Save India today, so that we can change it for a better tomorrow,” they said.
Attacking Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Opposition leaders said his Independence Day address did not focus on a single issue concerning people’s miseries.
“The speech was full of rhetoric, empty slogans and disinformation. In fact, it was a repackaging of earlier speeches given in 2019 and 2020. This speech is an ominous warning that the lives of our people will continue to be ruined further,” the statement said.
The leaders also strongly condemned the manner in which the Centre and the ruling BJP disrupted the Monsoon Session of Parliament, refusing to discuss the alleged illegal use of the Pegasus military spyware to conduct unauthorised surveillance, a repeal of the three “anti-farmer” laws, the gross mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation and price rise as also the spiralling unemployment.
All these and many other issues affecting the country and its people were deliberately ignored by the government, they alleged.
“Apart from denying the Opposition their right to raise crucial issues concerning the country and the people, the government steamrolled legislations through the din of the disruption caused by its handling of both Houses of Parliament,” they said.
Stating that the Centre should come clean on the Pegasus snooping issue, the parties also asked it to clarify on whether it bought the Israeli spyware and demanded a probe monitored by the apex court.
“The government must answer and come clean. Such surveillance is not only a gross violation of people’s fundamental right to privacy but is an attack on Indian democracy and democratic institutions,” the Opposition leaders said.
“Hold immediate Supreme Court monitored judicial enquiry into the use of Pegasus spyware for surveillance of people and a high-level investigation into the Rafale deal — the cancellation of the earlier order and placing of a new order at a higher cost,” the statement said.
The leaders also attacked the government over the country’s economy and for allegedly pushing crores of people into joblessness, poverty and hunger.
“We reiterate our support to the struggle launched by the farmers under the banner of the Samyukta Kisan Morcha,” they said.
The parties demanded a repeal of the three “anti-agriculture” laws and a guarantee on MSP to farmers.
The Opposition leaders also criticised the government over its handling of COVID-19 and called for an immediate ramping up of the vaccination drive to help prevent a third wave of the pandemic.
They said the Centre must implement free cash transfers of Rs 7,500 per month to all families outside the income-tax bracket and distribute free food kits to all needy people, besides withdrawing taxes on petrol, diesel and LPG cylinders.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress leader Rahul Gandhi were also present at the meeting.
Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav wrote a letter to the Congress president and expressed his inability to join the meeting.