Wrapping up his two-week tour of the USA, Indian National Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has described prominent leaders of India's freedom struggle as non-resident Indians (NRIs) and said the party was born of an "NRI movement".
"The original Congress movement was an NRI movement. Mahatma Gandhi was an NRI, Jawaharlal Nehru came back from England, Ambedkar, Azad, Patel, these were all NRIs," Rahul said last week in New York.
The Gandhi scion was addressing a nearly 2,000-strong crowd of the Congress party's NRI supporters at a meeting in the Big Apple, Times of India reported.
Elaborating on his unconventional view of the nation's founding fathers, Rahul said, "Every single one of them went to the outside world, saw the outside world, returned back to India and used some of the ideas they got and transformed India."
Rahul said there were thousands of such "NRIs" whose contribution to India is yet to be recognised. Citing the example of Verghese Kurien, father of the White Revolution, Rahul pointed out that he belonged to the category of a non-resident Indian as well.
"One of the biggest successes in India, the milk that most of India drinks, it was man called Mr Kurien, he was an NRI. He came from the United States and he transformed India... There are thousands of examples that we have not recognised," he claimed.
Hailing the Indian diaspora in the US, Rahul said just because they'd settled in a foreign land didn't mean that they did not contribute to the development of their native country, and went on to call them "the backbone" of India.
"Everywhere you look in this country, there is an Indian person working for America, working for India, living peacefully and building this country and our country... You are actually the backbone of our country. Some people view India as a geographical construct. I view India as a set of ideas. So for me, anybody who has the ideas that make up India is an Indian," Rahul explained.
The remarks came amid a sustained attack on the 'Divisive forces' in the country ruining India's global reputation and thereby threatening tolerance and communal harmony in India.
Rahul said that during his 14-day tour of the US, he'd spoken to people from all walks of life, be it students, members of the intelligentsia or politicians. All of them had expressed their concern at the recent events of communal violence and increasing acts of intolerance in the country, he claimed.
"The single biggest thing most people told me, 'What has happened to the tolerance that used to prevail in India? What has happened to the harmony in India?'... There's a divisive politics going on in India," Rahul said.
"The real challenge facing India is that 30,000 youngsters looking for a job and only 450 getting a job. You can imagine as this process continues what the result will be. India simply cannot give its youngsters a vision if it is unable to give them a job," he added.