India's democracy has been put "on notice" by a "sustained onslaught" on the liberal, secular, inclusive and pluralist ethos, senior Congress leader Ashwani Kumar has said in a sharp attack on the Modi government.
Kumar, in a lecture at the prestigious Trinity College, Dublin, said the recent incident of "oppressive enforcement" of the colonial law of sedition against students protesting in university campuses has raised several questions about the future of India's liberal democracy.
"A sustained onslaught on its liberal, secular, inclusive and pluralist ethos has put Indian democracy on notice," said the former minister of law and justice in the UPA government.
Taking a swipe at the current dispensation, Kumar asserted that examples abound have brought to life American political theorist James Madison who had cautioned long ago against the abridgement of freedom by the "gradual and silent encroachment by those in power", rather than by "violent and sudden usurpation".
Terming the assault on the liberal order with freedom as its first casualty as a "grave global challenge", Kumar said, "The rise of intolerance in its diverse manifestations fuelled by an appeal to religious, ethnic and nationalist sensitivities in parts of Europe, including Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Austria tell a story."
Kumar's remarks come in the backdrop of the intolerance debate in India with many writers, artists and civil society members expressing alarm over the issue in the past few months.
"We know that eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.
An informed and assertive citizenry alone can protect its freedoms and dignity. We know that Republics are created by the virtue, public spirit and intelligence of the citizens," the 63-year-old Rajya Sabha MP said.
"They fall when the wise our banished from public councils because they dare to be honest and the profligate are rewarded because they flatter the people in order to betray them," he said on Monday.
Kumar asserted that the challenges of the present demand leadership that can "tell the age what its will is".
"India and Ireland, the torch bearers of freedom, bound by a common past and inspired by the future must travel together on the road to freedom so that they may travel far.
Let us, therefore, resolve to dedicate ourselves to keeping aloft the flame of liberty remembering always the lesson of history that the service of constitutional ideals anywhere in the world has not been without a price or its rewards," he said.