Congress leader Rahul Gandhi delivered a lecture at Cambridge University titled ‘Learning to Listen in the 21st Century’, during which he spoke on various topics, ranging from the global democratic environment to Indian democracy under attack.
During the speech, Rahul alleged that the Israeli spyware Pegasus was being used to snoop into the phones of several political leaders, including his own. He further added that intelligence officers had warned him to be ‘careful’ about conversations over the phone, which were allegedly being recorded. Rahul also spoke about the pressure faced by the opposition under the current government, including criminal cases being filed against them.
He narrated incidents from his recently concluded 4,000-km Bharat Jodo Yatra across 12 states, during which he explained the power of listening and non-violence. Despite being warned by security personnel about the possibility of terrorist attacks, Rahul continued with the walk. An unknown man approached him and asked whether he had come to listen to the people of the valley. The man pointed to a group of militants standing nearby. Rahul said he looked at them and thought that he was in trouble but nothing happened. “They did not have the power to do anything, even if they wanted to, because I came into that environment to listen, with no violence in me at all,” he said.
Rahul also touched upon the diverse ideologies of the US and China since World War II and the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. Talking about the massive shift of production to China and decline in manufacturing in countries like India and the US, he said the issues of inequality and anger need to be addressed urgently.
He shared that he was initially amazed by the individual freedom and openness in the United States of America, but the situation changed post the September 11, 2001, terror attacks. He also shared how his ID was not checked at an airport shortly after the assassination of his father Rajiv Gandhi. “Anybody can come to America and dream the American dream. Inside America, they will trust you and protect you. Outside of the country, they can sometimes do bad things,” he said.
Rahul admitted that he is not an expert on China but shared what he understood from his conversations with senior leaders. The country “idolises harmony” through organisation around the Chinese Communist Party, he said. “China looks at energy, flow, and processes and then tries to shape them. If you use this metaphor, you can see what the Belt and Road is.”
Overall, Rahul’s speech touched upon various important topics, ranging from the need for a global democratic environment to the issues of inequality and anger, as well as the use of surveillance technology and the restrictions faced by opposition parties in India. His speech highlighted the importance of listening and non-violence in today’s world.