NEW DELHI -- With the Budget presentation out of the way, the Opposition is closing ranks against Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani over her fiery defense of the Modi government's crackdown on the "anti-national" students of Jawaharlal Nehru University, and her response to the suicide of a Dalit student at the University of Hyderabad.
While the Congress Party moved a privilege motion against Irani in the Lok Sabha today, Mayawati's Bahuhan Samaj Party did the same in the Rajya Sabha.
In contrast to the vigorous debate over the JNU row and the suicide of Rohith Vemula, which preoccupied lawmakers last week, both Houses of Parliament today deteriorated into a routine of chaos and adjournments.
The ruckus was over Irani's responses during the debate, BJP lawmaker Ram Shankar Katheria's grotesque remarks against Muslims, and allegations of money laundering against Karti Chidambaram, son of former Finance Minister P Chidambaram, in connection with the Aircel-Maxis scam.
While AIADMK leaders shouted slogans against Karti Chidambaram in Rajya Sabha, Congress Party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad accused the Modi government of organizing the ruckus to avoid a discussion on the motion against Irani.
Meanwhile, Union Minister Bandaru Dattatreya, a BJP lawmaker, moved a privilege motion against Congress Party leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, who called for action against him and Irani, while speaking in the parliamentary debate on the JNU row and Rohith Vemula's suicide.
Last year, Dattatreya wrote to Irani about the “anti-national acts" of the Dalit students, urging her to take action against them. Irani is under fire because the HRD Ministry sent five letters to the University of Hyderabad, asking the educational institution to look into the concerns raised by Dattatreya.
"I never mentioned Rohith's name. Never mentioned any student's name," he said, ANI reported. "I never mentioned any organization or incident in university as casteist or anti-national. Jyotiraditya has tarnished my image."
The first week of the Budget session was taken up by heated arguments on whether slapping a sedition charge on students is an overkill, even if they push the boundaries of free speech in the hallowed space of a university campus, and their remarks hurt the sentiments of other sections of society.
While Irani held her own against speeches advocating liberty and leniency, the tenor and substance of her remarks have been criticized for being high on drama, and not entirely accurate.
In the case of Rohith Vemula, the Dalit student who committed suicide at the University of Hyderabad on January 17, his mother has refuted Irani's claim that no doctor was allowed his body for quite a while after he was found hanging in his friend's room.
Irani is also getting flak for her remarks against Mahishasura, who is regarded as a demon by many Hindus, but also revered by adviasis, who mourn in his slaying by Goddess Durga.
"What is Mahishasura Martyrdom Day?," she said in the Lok Sabha, referring to "statement" from October, 4 2014 by the SC/ST and Minority students of JNU.
“Durga Puja is the most controversial racial festival, where a fair skinned beautiful goddess Durga is depicted brutally killing a dark-skinned native called Mahishasura....Mahishasura, a brave self-respecting leader, tricked into marriage by Aryans. They hired a sex worker called Durga, who enticed Mahishasura into marriage and killed him after nine nights of honeymooning, during sleep," Irani read out.
"Freedom of speech, Ladies and Gentlemen," she said. "What is this depraved mentality."
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