Congress leader Shashi Tharoor on Tuesday accused the BJP-led government of having become "a tukde-tukde gang", saying they are dividing the country into Hindu versus Muslims, traitor versus patriot, us versus them, and remarked that while the country saw partition of Indian soil in 1947, the ruling dispensation was "giving us a partition of the Indian soul".
Participating in the debate in Lok Sabha on the motion of thanks to the President's Address, Tharoor made a strong attack on the government, saying it has driven the economy to doldrums and there was an "existential threat to the future of democracy and the freedoms".
He alleged that the government had selectively quoted Mahatama Gandhi in the address.
He said the address was "soaring rhetoric and was completely divorced from the abject reality of our country's social and economic situation".
"It failed to even speak of the constitutional and political crises that our country is facing in the face of nationwide protests. It was not just disappointing, but an abdication of any moral responsibility by the ruling dispensation," he said.
The Congress leader said the "government holds the record for the largest number of internet shutdowns in Jammu and Kashmir and the longest communications blockade and internet suspensions on any country in the world".
"There was no acknowledgment of the 27 protesters killed by the police, the mounting Non-Performing Assets, the record pollution levels in our air and water, the increasing assaults on women," he said.
Noting that the prolonged detention of political leaders in Jammu and Kashmir continues, he said there has been an increase in infiltrations across the LoC since August when Article 370 was revoked and Jammu and Kashmir bifurcated into two union territories.
He said there was a "larger crisis that is holding hostage the future of India" and there has been "a fundamental assault on the democratic, secular and constitutional fabric of India" under the government in the last few months.
"Even as they have driven the economy into the doldrums, the present ruling dispensation has become a tukde-tukde gang. They are dividing this country into tukde - Hindu versus Muslims, traitor versus partriot, Hindi speakers versus non-Hindi speakers, and us versus them. In 1947, we had a partition of the Indian soil. In 2020, this Government is giving us a partition of the Indian soul," Tharoor said.
Tharoor said the RTI Act had been disembowelled and UAPA Bill passed had "draconian measures". He also referred to Jammu and Kashmir Re-orgsation Bill, the Citizenship Amendment Act and statements made by the ruling party Members outside the parliament.
"To you, that is the old India and you want to replace it with a hollow facade that you have dubbed the new India. In the old India, fought for by the blood of our forefathers and birthed in the crucible of our national struggle, the fundamental premise that was ultimately forged was that of access to a historically inalienable set of rights and freedoms," he said.
He said these freedoms were embedded not just in the letter of the law but in the spirit of the Constitution and in the lived experience of India and its people.
"In today's times, that vision of India is questioned by rising intolerance, in which the forces unleashed by our present rulers have appropriated the tools of the State to marginalise and exclude. For, after all, they made no sacrifices to shape India's destiny, and for them, our country is a plaything for the satisfaction of personal glories, for their narrow-minded ideology, and their communal prejudices," he alleged.
He accused the government of misleading the Rashtrapati about the `Rashtrapita' by merely reproducing a line without its context and it was another affront to a man who spent his lifetime advocating for Hindu-Muslim unity.
Tharoor cited Gandhi as saying "to drive every Muslim from India would mean war and eternal ruin for the country. If such a suicidal policy is followed, it would spell the ruin of Hinduism in the Union. Good alone can beget good. Love breeds love. As for revenge, it behaves man to leave the evil-doer in God's hands. The idea that India should only belong to Hindus is wrong. That way lies destruction."
"Destruction is the path you want to take us on. I am anguished as I say these words," he said.
"We must prevail in this greater struggle for the soul and the spirit of our nation," he said.
The Congress leader said if the Government continues down "this very slippery slope, they will be exposed and history will see them for what they really are - men of straw with limited vision, unable to comprehend the great, diverse, united society they are meant to govern, not to divide and break up".
He accused the government of trying to bring "uniformity and conformity".
"Our ideology binds the people of India together, theirs separates one Indian from another," he said.
( With inputs from ANI )