The New Indian Express
She said Rohith Vemula said that no one was responsible for his death and ... While attacking BJP and RSS, Scindia also raised the issue of FTII, IIT ...
HRD Minister Smriti Irani speaks in the Lok Sabha in New Delhi on Wednesday. | PTI
NEW DELHI: In one of the fieriest debates in the recent times, the issue of Rohit Vemula, Dalit scholar who committed suicide, and JNU episode rocked both the houses of the parliament as Opposition and the treasury benches traded charges.
While, emotionally charged HRD minister Smriti Irani attacked opposition, particularly Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, of politicising the death of a student and siding with those opposed to India, the united opposition pilloried the government for playing partisan politics. Congress, TMC, BJP, Left while denouncing anti-national slogans in JNU, they charged government was gunning against students opposed to their ideology.
Aggressive Irani took on the united Opposition in Lok Sabha head on while speaking during the discussion, saying she would leave politics if anyone of the vice chancellors appointed were to suggest she was indulging in saffronisation.
“I am not certifying your patriotism. But don’t demean mine. I am not certifying your idea of India, but do not demean mine,” she said even as opposition parties staged a walkout.
Rubbishing opposition charges over for her handling of Vemula’s death. Irani said, “My name is Smriti Irani. I challenge you to tell me my caste.”
"No one can raise a finger against me on this issue. I am taking it personally as woman who gives birth can break from inside,” Irani said choking with emotion while referring to her criticism over Vemula’s death while adding "Our children are not vote-banks." She said Rohith Vemula said that no one was responsible for his death and even added that the executive council that took the decision to suspend Rohith was appointed by Congress.
In Rajya Sabha, BSP supremo Mayawati clashed with Irani as her party members forced adjournments over non-inclusion of a dalit in the inquiry panel to probe Vemula’s death, and even insisting on separate discussion into Vemula’s death rather than clubbing it with the JNU issue. She also accused government being anti-dalit, even as no business could be conducted for the first day. responded to Mayawati by saying, "I am ready to reply to all questions. First you allow the discussion... You are senior to me. You are a woman. If you want, I am ready to reply. If you are not satisfied with my reply, I am ready to behead myself and lay it on your feet."
In Lok Sabha, Irani turned emotional several times as she read out from the posters and slogans used in the JNU against India, questioning the death penalty of Afzal Guru and even some uncharitable remarks against Goddess Durga. She questioned why was Rahul Gandhi siding with the anti-nationals and if attack on her was because she was Congress VP’s rivel in Amethi.
“Even Indira Gandhi lost power. But her son never supported slogans demanding destruction of India,” Irani said targeting Rahul for supporting JNU students.
Reffering to some in JNU also praising Yaqub Menon, she said bomb blasts took place in Mumbai on March, which is my mother’s birthday, how can i forget. They questioned Supreme Court and India, she added. Irani named all the student mentioned in the JNU report and said "Umar Khaild misled the university administration saying that he was organising a poetry reading event".
Referring to Rohit Vemula case, she said even other MPs had written to him several times, like Congress Hanumantha Rao, Assadudin Owasi, as it was her duty. “My ministry handled 61,000 complaints we never asked the caste or religious of them,” she charged. She accused Telangana government of playing politics over the death of a child. “
Have you seen Rahul Gandhi going to a spot twice. He went there, as he was playing politics. Earlier gandhio speaking to reporters outside the parliament had said he was willing to speak but he was not being allowed to voice his opnion. Rajnath Singh responded with saying government will not stop anyone.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Rajnath Singh assured the Lok Sabha that no innocent student will be harassed and said the issue of sedition charge slapped against some students should be left for the courts to decide.
Earlier during the day, Congress MP Jyotiradtiya led the attack on government for death of Vemula and crushing dissent in JNU. "Bandaru Dattaterya in his letter had called Rohith a castiest and an anti-national. Where in the world can you see a HRD minister writing five letters in any case," he said.
While attacking BJP and RSS, Scindia also raised the issue of FTII, IIT Madras and JNU and said, "the government was trying to muzzle the voice of the youth."
He alleged that the government was angry with JNU because it stood against "saffron terrorism", Dadri lynching, RSS and the suicide of Rohith Vemula in the Hyderabad University.
From BJP side, Anurag Thakur raised the nationalist pitch over the JNU issue and attacked Congress, saying for the party, "it is 'family first', 'party next' and 'nation last'. For us, it is 'nation first', 'party next' and 'family last'."
He alleged that Rahul Gandhi went to the university to support such outfits which were named by the previous UPA government as "frontal organisations" for Maoists. "I want to ask Sonia ji, why your young leader was standing with those who stand with Afzal Guru," Thakur said addressing the Congress President who was present there.
TMC MP and former Harvard professor Sugata Bose accused the government of being "heartless" in dealing with the students and said the situation in the JNU should have been handled with sensitivity. He said BJP’s definition of nationalism was "narrow, selfish and arrogant" and even warned them for raising this pitch while qoting Tagore, Netaji and Aurobindo. He was heard with rapt attention. After his speech even Sonia and Rahul went to congratulate him.
BJD member Tathagata Satpathy described Azfal Guru as a "scoundrel" and said the system gave the dreaded man full chance to defend himself. But he added, the government should have handled the JNU episode with care and the Home Ministry should not have made a statement on the basis of tweets.
CPM MP M B Rajesh said the BJP was branding JNU as a centre of anti-national activities.
Congress leader M Mallikarjun Kharge said nobody should politicise the issues of Hyderabad central University and JNU. "You have 80,000 constables and you are not able to catch 8-10 students and instead you are defaming all the
people," Kharge said and asked whether it was Congress' fault.
Sparks fly in Houses over JNU row, Rohith Vemula's suicide - The Asian
Sparks fly in Houses over JNU row, Rohith Vemula’s suicide
Govt bid to muzzle youth: Jyotiraditya
The raging Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) controversy rocked Lok Sabha proceedings on Wednesday with an emotionally charged human resources development minister Smriti Irani saying the university’s student union president, Kanhaiya Kumar, and other students were found indulging in anti-national activities by the varsity authorities themselves.
She also made an emotional pitch on Hyderabad Central University student Rohith Vemula’s suicide, saying that her ministry had no role in his death and that the deceased himself had said in his suicide note that nobody should be held responsible for his action.
Replying to a discussion on the JNU row and Vemula suicide incident, Union home minister Rajnath Singh assured the Lok Sabha that no innocent student would be harassed and said the issue of the sedition charge slapped on some students should be left to the courts to decide. The home minister also told the House that those found guilty of attacks on the media in the Patiala House courts would not be spared.
Sparks flew as soon as the House started a discussion on the JNU row and Hyderabad Central University student Rohith Vemula’s suicide, with both the Treasury benches and the Opposition playing a game of one-upmanship to present their credentials as “nationalists”.
Initiating the debate, Congress chief whip Jyotiraditya Scindia alleged “undue interference” by Union HRD minister Smriti Irani and labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya in Vemula’s case. “Bandaru Dattatreya in his letter had called Rohith a castiest and an anti-national. Where in the world can you see a HRD minister writing five letters in any case,” Mr Scindia said. The Congress MP from Guna also raised the issue of FTII, IIT Madras and JNU and said “the government was trying to muzzle the voice of the youth”.
Lambasting the government, Mr Scindia attacked external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, tribal affairs minister Jual Oram and Ms Irani for emphasising that Vemula was not a dalit.
Criticising the role of the Hyderabad University administration, he said protests and fights are the part of academic institutions but in this case the vice-chancellor should have tackled this issue in a better way. However, he instead suspended the dalit students and compelled them to stay in an open tent because of the “politics of the RSS and BJP”, the Congress legislator said.
“The Prime Minister speaks of demographic dividend of the youth. But what do we see in the country? In Madhya Pradesh, we see Vyapam in Madhya Pradesh, the problem of drugs in Punjab, the way the voice of students in FTII was muzzled. The government machinery is being misused and is trying to crush the voice of the dissident and those having a contrary view,” he said.
He also questioned the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying, “He tweets on every other thing, but it took five days for him to speak on this matter, only after a worldwide uproar. There is no reference in Mann Ki Baat.”
Later the home minister in his reply to the debate also told the House that those found guilty of attacks on the media in the Patiala House courts would not be spared. The home minister also answered criticism for making a remark that LeT founder Hafiz Sayeed had expressed support to the JNU students, saying he never makes any comment which is “baseless or not backed by any direct or indirect evidence”. He, however, refrained from going into details citing confidentiality.
Replying to a day-long debate on the JNU issue, he said the government had no hand in the action taken against the students and that the police was taking action with regard to allegations that anti-India slogans were chanted there. “If slapping of sedition charge was right, the court will uphold it, if it was wrong, the court will quash it. But let the court take a view on it,” he said, adding, “Under no circumstances will any innocent student be allowed to be harassed.”
HRD minister Smriti Irani came out all guns blazing while replying to the charged day-long debate. She said she was being targeted by the Congress for contesting against Mr Rahul Gandhi in Amethi parliamentary constituency. “I will not seek forgiveness for doing my duty... You (Congress members) never wanted to listen to my reply,” she said aloud as the Congress members, Left parties and Trinamul Congress staged a walkout as she was speaking.
During the last 20 months as minister, Ms Irani said, she had tried to do justice to students by trying to address their complaints without asking for their “caste or religion”.
Rejecting the charge of saffronising education, she said she would quit politics if it was established she had made any attempt to do so.
Most of the vice-chancellors are Congress appointees, Ms Irani said, adding she had asked them to listen to students who come from different backgrounds and address their issues.
Citing documents, she said a report by JNU’s security people observed that some students were indulging in anti-national sloganeering even though the students had sought permission to hold a “poetry” event. Those involved in the programme, including Umar Khalid, Kanhaiya Kumar and others, she said, were suspended by the JNU authorities though they were allowed to stay on the campus till completion of the inquiry.
Sugata Bose of the Trinamul Congress accused the government of being “heartless” in dealing with the students and said the situation in JNU should have been handled with sensitivity. Observing that similar problems were witnessed at Jadavpur University, he said the West Bengal government did not over-react but tried to defuse the situation. He said people could disagree with students, but it would be incorrect to brand them anti-national and slap sedition charges on them. “They too have the right to make a mistake,” he added. Nobody, Mr Bose said, should claim a monopoly on nationalism and the government should respect the right of everyone, including that of students, to freedom of speech and expression.
Quoting his grand-uncle, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, he said it would be wrong to pursue nationalism which is “narrow, selfish and arrogant”. He suggested that laws dealing with sedition should be repealed as they were enacted by colonial rulers to subserve their ends.