Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday accused the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) of destroying liberal and secular India.

Taking a dig at the ruling BJP and its ideological mentor RSS during a valedictory speech at a national conference on "No peace without freedom, No freedom without peace: Securing Nehru’s vision and India’s future" to celebrate of the 125th birth anniversary of former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Rahul Gandhi said for the first time a fascist organisation has achieved decisive power and his party is the "biggest force" fighting it.

Referring to the RSS, he said, for the first time in the history of our country, a fascist organisation that is openly opposed to the ideology and values of the Indian Constitution has acquired decisive power over the Union of India. 

Saying that the stated purpose of the RSS is "to establish a theocratic, autocratic state in India", the Congress leader said: "To achieve this goal, it has to destroy the current liberal, progressive, secular, social democratic republic."

Replying to a panellist’s question during a session of the conference, he said: "We are the biggest force that fought RSS."

On Nehruvian thinking, Gandhi said: "Nehru’s idea was that each Indian, no matter how poor or weak, understands the universe around him. And that knowledge comes through practice and experience… Nobody can claim a monopoly on truth. Each Indian has his and her own unique perspective that informs and adds to India’s understanding of the world."

"When the RSS and BJP deny this they are not just being intolerant. They are disrespecting the power and agency of the Indian people. They are disrespecting and denying the Indian people their dignity.

Referring to national broadcaster Doordarshan’s live telecast of the RSS chief’s Dussehra speech, he asked: " why must all of India be subjected to the hateful mediocrity of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat on the national television?" 

"If we are viewing this as the victory of the RSS. This is false… This is the time for the Congress party and yourselves to re-establish a relationship, to have discussion and to bring forth the ideas that are going to help us defeat the RSS," he added.

Stating that "secularism is in the blood of the Congress", Gandhi said: "Respect for everybody is the DNA of our organisation. We just need to reinvigorate that. Then you’ll see the Congress idea will smash the RSS and the BJP."

He said: "What brings us together today is our deep concern about the assault on our liberty, on our rights and our democratic space. We are here because both peace and freedom have been viciously wounded in our country. 

The Congress vice president also paid homage to the memory of Dabholkar, Pansare and Kalburgi, saying they "were martyred for nothing more than their opinions". "We pay homage to Akhlaq and Mohsin Sheikh, who were martyred for being Muslim."

Narendra Achyut Dabholkar, who spent much of his life exposing sham rituals, miracles, black magic and godmen, was murdered in 2013. Communist leader Govind Pansare was shot dead in February near his residence in Kolhapur, Maharashtra, on February 16.

Kannada scholar and rationalist M.M. Kalburgi was murdered in Karnataka’s Dharwad town in August.

"We condemn all attacks on freedom of speech and expression, faith and worship, thought and belief," he added.

He said the Congress party deals with the equation of power. "It is forced to deal with the equation of power. When I work in the Congress party, I have to deal with the idea of power. We cannot wish away the idea of power. It exists and I have to operate within that."