New Delhi: Lok Sabha today witnessed clashes and repeated adjournments as it took up the debate on ‘intoleance’ with the opposition targeting the government and triggering a storm after a CPI(M) member attributed ‘Hindu leader’ comments to Home Minister Rajnath Singh who denied it. The comments by Mohd Salim, who cited a report in a news magazine while initiating the debate on ‘intolerance, led to a deadlock with the ruling side demanding that he either withdraw these comments or apologise.
The logjam, because of which the House was adjourned four times, was resolved in the evening after Speaker Sumitra Mahajan expunged the remarks related to the allegations. This paved the way for resumption of the debate during which opposition parties like CPI(M) and Congress attacked the government, alleging that intolerance had increased since the NDA government came.
BJP hit back by saying that incidents, which were being projected by the opposition as examples of ‘intolerance’, had been taking place in the country for decades. Its member Meenakshi Lekhi also cited Home Ministry figures to insist that incidents of communal violence had come since NDA came to power.
Earlier, the ruling and the opposition sides locked horns after Salim alleged that Singh was quoted by the magazine as having made the ‘Hindu leader’ remark after Narendra Modi became Prime Minister last year. Citing the magazine, Salim said Singh had made the remark at an internal meeting of RSS.
Singh vehemently denied it and said he was never hurt so much in his Parliamentary career as he was today. “Mohd Salim levelled a serious allegation against me. He should say when and where I made such a statement or apologise …. A Home Minister who makes such a statement has no moral right to be the Home Minister. I speak after weighing every word… People know Rajnath Singh can never make such a statement,” Singh said.
When some BJP members questioned whether he was present when such a reported comment was made, the CPI(M) member said, “I don’t have such misfortune to attend RSS meeting.” Members in the treasury benches, including Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy, demanded that Salim withdraw his remark till the Speaker takes a view by examining all sides, including authenticity of the report.
At this point, Rudy said it would be difficult to run the House till he withdraws his comments. The Speaker asked Salim to agree to this but he declined. He, however, told the Speaker that the remarks may not be made part of the record till she verifies it.
Salim insisted that he was not levelling any allegation nor wanted to cast any aspersion on Singh but was only quoting from a reputed weekly. He said neither the Home Minister nor the government has ever denied the report. At the same time, Salim acknowledged that it was the Home Minister who was among the first from the government to speak against Dadri lynching incident.
B Mahtab (BJD) sided with the treasury benches and quoted the Rule book to say that an allegation against a minister or member cannot be made without giving prior notice. Saugata Roy, whose party TMC is a bitter of CPI(M), however, batted for Salim by citing another rule.
Amid the uproar, Salim walked to the Lok Sabha Secretary General and authenticated the article containing Singh’s alleged remarks. When the BJP members demanded withdrawal of the remarks by Salim, he said he had only quoted from an article in a publication. In a way, he said, he has helped the minister as the Intelligence Bureau and police should have told him about this earlier as the issue was dated November 16.
The Speaker told the member that she was keeping his remarks out of records till she examined them. After repeated adjournments, the Speaker announced that the portion related to the allegation had been expunged as no prior notice had been given by Salim.
As the debate resumed, Salim alleged that ‘intolerance’ was on the rise and the government had failed to check this. To press his point, he referred to returning of awards by writers, artist, film-makers etc. “In the name of religion, atrocities are being committed and the government is keep silent instead of taking strong action against killing of minorities, dalit and rationlists,” alleged the CPI(M) member who had given notice for a debate on the subject.
Making religion as shield against injustice is not a sustainable proposition, he said. A series of incidents is a reflection of the fact that there is some problem in “fundamental thinking” and untruth and violance has become order of the day, he said. “It is not Satyameya Jayate but Asatyameya Jayete…It is not Ashimsa Parmo Dharma but Himsha Parmo Dharma,” he alleged.
The remark of the Gen V K Singh over the dalit killing in Haryana was also raised by Salim. Congress member K C Venugopal said it is only in the last 15-16 months that the chain of the events have led to “destruction of secular fabric” of the country.
He raised the Dadri issue, killing of dalit in Haryana, unbriddled comments by various ministers on intolerance. “No mature remark from the Prime Minister came even after series of incidents of intolerance,” Venugopal said, adding the government maintained unfortunate silence.
“Inaction gave courage to intolerant forces,” he added. He observed “we must differentiate between tolerant Hinduism and intolerant Hindutva.”