New Delhi: The Rajya Sabha was disrupted repeatedly on Monday over what the Congress termed “atrocities” on Dalits in Punjab, as party leaders protested the gruesome chopping of limbs of two Dalit men in Abohar district. As the first half of the day was marred by disruptions, the government tried to take up the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill but that only fuelled the ruckus further.
The disruptions in the Rajya Sabha began as soon as the house met in the morning. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s statement on her Pakistan visit last week was drowned in an uproar by Congress members who demanded action against the Punjab government over alleged atrocities against Dalits.
As the external affairs minister stood up to read out her statement, Congress members trooped to the chairman’s podium, calling the government “anti-Dalit” and sought the dismissal of the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiromani Akali Dal coalition government in Punjab. The minister read out her statement amid the sloganeering and hence was not clearly audible.
An upset Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien told the protesting members: “It is most undemocratic, unfortunate that a few members take the house to ransom.” The house was briefly adjourned but when it met again, the scene was no different.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the state government will take action on the issue. Limbs of two men were chopped off on Saturday at a farmhouse allegedly owned by a leader of the ruling Akali Dal in Punjab, as per media reports.
One of the men, Bheem Tank, died on way to the hospital after both his hands and legs were cut off. Gurjant Singh, who lost one hand, was admitted to a hospital in Amritsar in a serious condition. Leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said there was no law and order in the state.
“The incident at the farmhouse of an Akali Dal leader in Abohar… Bheem was a Dalit… the way Shiv Lal Doda called him to his farmhouse and chopped off his hands and legs, it is jungle raj,” said Azad. “The (Shiromani Akali Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party) coalition government in Punjab is a government of drug and alcohol mafia. There is no law and order,” he said.
In response, Shiromani Akali Dal member Balwinder Singh Bhunder said the man in question was not an SAD member and added that an FIR was registered and action is being taken. Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati called the incident “shameful” and said the liquor mafia in the state was responsible for the crime.
As the ruckus continued, the house was adjourned till noon. The scene remained the same when the house met again, and Chairman M. Hamid Ansari adjourned the house first till 12.30 p.m. and then till 2 p.m.
When the house again met at 2 p.m., Congress leader Anand Sharma said a trust holding a function to unveil the statue of former Kerala chief minister R. Sankar, had invited Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy. However, the invitation to Chandy was withdrawn after pressure from the central government, he alleged.
Soon after, the government tried to take up the the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, but the opposition continued to create ruckus. “They talk about the Dalits but they do not want to take up the bill to prevent atrocities on Dalits,” Naqvi said.
The house was then adjourned till 3 p.m. When it reassembled, the government again tried to push the bill, but the opposition refused to relent. “This is related to justice for SCs/STs, why not discuss this,” Naqvi questioned. Azad said they were in favour of the bill, but “we cannot pass the bill in the din”. Kurien later adjourned the house for the day.