Mumbai: Coming out in support of young victims of social media trolls, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President Sharad Pawar on Saturday exhorted them to speak out against the wrong policies of the government and oppose growing incidents of intolerance and fascism across India.
In an unique initiative, Pawar met around 35 youngsters who have been threatened on social media and/or booked by the police for speaking out their minds against the government and its policies on WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook or other public and community fora in the past few weeks.
Creating the right atmosphere to put the youngsters at ease, Pawar gently made it clear at the start of the three-hour interactive session: "You can bluntly criticize me -- Say anything you want freely. Tell me honestly where my party or I am going wrong."
Many of them displayed courage and gave an earful, mainly on NCP politics, to the 76-year-old Pawar who listened intently without interruption while some aides made notings of the suggestions thrown up.
"It was an absolutely free and candid exchange of views between the NCP chief and the youngsters who gave their frank opinions on a wide range of issues confronting the country, especially on the reduced tolerance levels, the attacks on freedom of thought, speech and expression," senior legislator Jitendra Awhad told IANS.
Another party leader who was present on the sidelines said the exercise was part of a long-term strategy to attract the liberal-minded youths to the NCP fold, infuse fresh thinking of GenNext vis-a-vis traditional politics and rejuvenate the party before the 2019 elections.