New Delhi: Against the backdrop of criticism of the Narendra Modi government over claims of "rising intolerance", activists and academicians Friday emphasised the need for sticking to the "foundational principles of the republic" even as Congress was questioned about its attack on the NDA dispensation on this front.
At a panel discussion here ahead of the 125th birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the participants also stressed that the values of freedom needed to percolate to the lowest layers of the population.
The discussion, 'No Peace Without Freedom, No Freedom Without Peace - Securing Nehru's Vision and India's Future', as part of a two-day conference also saw the panelists lauding the first prime minister of India for his efforts to secure the rights of the weaker sections of society.
The panel discussion was attended by Congress leader Anand Sharma, Rajya Sabha MP Ashok Ganguly, eminent writer Mukul Kesavan, social activist Teesta Setalvad and Gandhian activist PV Rajagopal.
"We are being pushed to the wall, we should not fall for that. We should just stick to the foundational principles of our republic. Let's go back to Constituent Assembly debates. Let's not confuse freedom with hate speeches," Setalvad said at the conference.
She lauded "elite" Nehru for his vision for the downtrodden, but rued that "today's elites were not concerned about the concerns of the vast majority of Indians".
She also urged Congress to return to the fundamental ideas of the Constitution.
Kesavan for his part questioned Congress's criticism of NDA government on the issue of "intolerance" as he reminded that it was the UPA major that was instrumental in framing the cow protection Act.
He further asked how Congress was different from BJP and wondered why the party had not repealed the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act which, he added, has eroded the liberties of people in the northeastern states despite being in office for several years.
"If the Congress sees individual freedom as a luxury that can be suspended in the name of national interest, how is it different from BJP?" asked Kesavan.