Fence eating up the field: Oppn comes down heavily on Modi govt in Rajya Sabha
The Rajya Sabha debate on “lynching and atrocities on minorities and Dalits” on 19 July gave the Opposition a much-needed opportunity to corner the Narendra Modi government.
From Congress to CPI(M), and Samajwadi Party to Bahujan Samaj Party, every party in the Opposition blamed the BJP directly for the incidents and demanded stern action against the criminal elements involved in them.
When the hedge-fence eats the fields
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad began the debate by recalling the multiple incidents that have taken place over the last two years. He stressed that conclusive action is yet to be taken in any of these cases. He said from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, there is no state left where such lynchings have not taken place and stated that a feeling of hatred has become entrenched in the nation.
The senior Congress leader admitted that these incidents used to take place earlier too but while they were isolated incidents in the past, the ruling party and the Sangh Parivar are directly involved now. He also duly acknowledged that the Prime Minister and the Home Minister have spoken against these incidents, but added that in reality, an understanding exists with the fringe groups that they should continue with their campaign.
Azad also told the government that the fight against lynching was a collective struggle and the Opposition could help the government in correcting the situation.
However, the Opposition can't do anything when the government itself is creating this situation. He gave the example of a hedge-fence that is installed on the periphery of fields to protect the crops from stray animals. However, nothing can be done when the hedge-fence itself destroys the very field it was supposed to protect. What is the use of such a fence, Azad asked.
Govt: We are more upset than the Opposition
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi intervened in the debate and sought to “correct” Azad's assertions about the lynching incidents having gone unaddressed.
He said from Alwar to Ballabgarh to Ramgarh to Nagpur, prompt action was taken everywhere and many culprits are now in jail. Moreover, these were individual criminals and not affiliated to any party, he added.
Naqvi also asked whether any attacker in these incidents was found to have a board around his neck introducing himself as gau rakshak, implying that gau rakshaks were being maligned.
He asserted that PM Modi's words calling for action against these criminals were for all state governments, including those run by the BJP. We will not allow destructive agenda to dominate its development agenda, he stressed.
The minister also said that the government and his party were more upset over these incidents than the Opposition, but they are being blamed because the Opposition has found no issue to slam the government over. He asserted that there is no corruption taint on the Modi government, the economy has become stronger, the poor are progressing and India's image has become stronger in the world.
SP: BJP's stand on beef is duplicitous
SP's Naresh Aggarwal began his arguments by highlighting that the chief minister of Goa, heading a BJP-led government, has asserted that Goans will continue to eat beef. He said this showed the BJP's double-speak on the issue wherein it professes to worship the cow on one hand but actually promoted beef-eating in a state where it was in power.
Aggarwal said this was a classic case of “Muh me raam, bagal me chhuri” (God on your lips, but a dagger by your side). He the also made a controversial statement which, later expunged by the Chair, sent the treasury benches up in arms in protest. A massive uproar led by BJP MPs threatened to cripple the proceedings altogether. BJP said the comment maligned Hindu gods and had hurt the religious sentiments of the entire Hindu community.
Leader of the House Arun Jaitley noted that Aggarwal had equated Hindu gods with brands of alcohol and if he would have said this outside the House, he would have been liable to be prosecuted. Jaitley also asked whether Aggarwal would make such comments about any other religious denomination.
Aggarwal and his party were initially resolute, but eventually expressed regret only to let the proceedings resume. The MP further stressed that lynching has made it impossible to transport cattle and has also led to the death of cattle fairs. He taunted BJP saying his party was ready to donate donate one cow each to every BJP MP if the latter assured that the cows will be taken good care of.
CPI(M): Cult of violence spreading
CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury asserted in his speech that these lynchings were taking our republic backward and threatening our constitutional order. He said India gave universal suffrage to its voters because our foundation was equality and these lynchings are threatening this equality.
He equated gau rakshaks with private armies like the notorious Ku Klux Clan in USA, the paramilitary troops of the Nazis in Germany and the Fascists in Italy. He said they were at work simultaneously at so many places because “there is a certain ideological process at work”.
Yechury recalled the words of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who, while banning the RSS after Mahatma Gandhi's assassination, had said that the organisation was responsible for creation of a “cult of violence” in the country. He said the courage of gau rakshaks comes from this “cult of violence” and the ideology that this cult represents directly contradicts the right to equality.
The CPI(M) leader said these lynchings were “part of an ideological construct that threatens our democratic order” and they have to be banned by a central order. He demanded a ban on all gau raksha outfits to “stop this degeneration”.
Trinamool Congress' Derek O'Brien said this was not cow vigilantism, but cow terrorism and that empty words were not enough. The groups and the individuals committing these acts must be named, he demanded. AIADMK's Vijila Sathyananth asserted that beef was a natural food choice for many people and the attacks in the name of the cow were a human disaster.
Bahujan Samaj Party's SC Mishra accused the BJP of fomenting class wars, caste wars as well as inter-religion wars in the country. He declared that his party's chief Mayawati will conclusively resign from the House and hit the streets against the BJP over these lynchings.