The Upper House of Parliament erupted in a chorus of accusations as agitated members demanded that Union Human Resource and Development (HRD) Minister Smriti Irani apologize for reading out in the House an offensive pamphlet, even as the fiery BJP leader maintained that she was simply submitting facts during a debate on the contentious Jawaharlal Nehru University issue.
Irani, who quoted from Macbeth to make her point, said she was pained at the contents of the pamphlet that was allegedly circulated at JNU as she was a worshipper of goddess Durga herself. The pamphlet allegedly had references to "Mahishasura martyrdom day".
"We demand apology from Smriti Irani and that the portion about Durga should be expunged from the records," Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said. Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma echoed Azad's sentiments and said that Irani's remark was "blasphemous."
I myself am a Durga worshipper, I said it with a lot of pain: Smriti Irani in Rajya Sabha.— ANI (@ANI_news) February 26, 2016
The docs I read yesterday are officials documents from the Univ, these are not documents of the Govt: Smriti Irani pic.twitter.com/lg38zIsnSk— ANI (@ANI_news) February 26, 2016
HRD Minister must apologise for what she said about Goddess Durga, its blasphemous: Anand Sharma in RS— ANI (@ANI_news) February 26, 2016
Sharma raised a point of order saying the Constitution and rules do not permit anything to be raised in the House which is blasphemous and can hurt religious sentiments. Irani, he said, had read out "insulting" comments made against Goddess Durga "verbatim" in the House and sought a ruling from the Chair as to whether such comments made outside Parliament against any religious figure or a deity can be read out inside the House.
"The documents which I read yesterday were official documents from the University; these are not documents of the Government. I am a practicing Hindu and I was pained to read out the pamphlet on Goddess Durga," Irani countered.
Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman, P J Kurien, tried to ease the atmosphere, saying that he would go through the record and would expunge blasphemous statements.
ROHITH VEMULA ISSUE
In the afternoon, Sitaram Yechury while speaking in Rajya Sabha, asked the government "not to pass unverified statements as evidences".
She quoted Macbeth -- foul is fair and fair is foul. She is making all that is foul, fair.
"She quoted Macbeth -- foul is fair and fair is foul. She is making all that is foul, fair," Yechury said. Senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley came to Irani's defense and said "every word that the minister has spoken has been authenticated."
"Who is a good Hindu? Will they give certificates? Why is all this being brought up here in august House to divide country?" Yechury said. "You have pushed the child to commit suicide, it's virtually murder," he accused BJP leaders, referring to the suicide of PhD scholar Rohith Vemula who was found hanging in a hostel room at the Hyderabad
Azad said there were campaigns against many religious figures but all this cannot be raised in the House.
Coming to his colleague's defence, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, attacked Congress and other opposition parties saying it had become a pattern for them to seek a Short Duration Discussion, a couple of Calling Attention Motions and an apology in every session while showing no interest in legislative business.
He also said that Congress was raising the issue as its Vice President was criticised for supporting those indulging in activities against the nation.
You have pushed the child to commit suicide, it's virtually murder.
As the two sides indulged in heated exchanges, Kurien said there has been a tradition that nothing blasphemous or anything against any community will be raised in the House.
The remarks of former Home Minister P Chidambaram on Afzal Guru and ex-Home Secretary G K Pillai on Ishrat Jahan found their echo in Lok Sabha with a BJP member claiming that the erstwhile UPA government had tried to settle scores with its political rival Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Text of my speech delivered in Rajya Sabha on February 25, 2016 during discussion on situation arising in JNU & HCU https://t.co/jTRCWw6t87— Arun Jaitley (@arunjaitley) February 26, 2016
Just before the House began discussing the Motion of Thanks to the President's Address, Anurag Thakur referred to reports quoting Chidambaram as saying that Guru's case "was perhaps not correctly decided" and Pillai as saying that the affidavit submitted to Gujarat High Court in 2009 about LeT links of Ishrat Jahan and her accomplices, who were killed in an alleged fake encounter in 2004, was changed at the "political level".
"It was an attempt to fix Modi...it was a conspiracy to put in dock political rivals by the previous (UPA) government," he said.
"Who changed the affidavit (in the Ishrat Jahan case), the nation wants to know," Thakur said.
Members of Congress and the CPI(M) objected to the Chair for "selectively" allowing some members to speak.
Soon after the Question Hour, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said the Speaker has not expunged the "derogatory" remarks against party chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul made by Thakur from House proceedings.
On the contrary, words used by party leader Jyotiraditya Scindia have been expunged, he said. Kharge said while it was Speaker's prerogative to expunge remarks and statements, words used against the Gandhis should be removed from records as it would set a precedent where people will decide on "who is nationalist or anti-national."
He was supported by members of the NCP and Left parties. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy said while Kharge was free to air his stand, since he has named Thakur, he too should be given a chance to speak.
When Thakur referred to Chidambaram and Pillai, some opposition members objected, to which the BJP said he has already given notice in this regard.
Chidambaram has been quoted in an interview as saying that he felt it was possible to hold an "honest opinion" that the Afzal Guru case was "perhaps not correctly decided" and there were "grave doubts about the extent of his involvement" in the Parliament attack. Guru was hanged on February 9, 2013.
Reports quoting Pillai had said that two affidavits submitted by the Home Ministry on the Ishrat Jahan case were contradictory to each other. Pillai was the Home Secretary and Chidambaram the Home Minister when the affidavits were filed in 2009.
(With inputs from agencies)
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