NEW DELHI: Even as IT Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw was reading a statement on the Pegasus project, which has revealed alleged large-scale snooping, Trinamool Congress MPs snatched the report from the Minister's hand and tore it to pieces on the floor of the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
Journalist-turned-BJP MP Swapan Dasgupta said: "Some of the TMC MPs took the paper from the hands of the Minister and tore it.
"This is unacceptable."
Trinamool MP Shantanu Sen was seen on national television snatching the report right out of the Minister's hand, tearing it apart and then throwing the shredded pieces into the air.
There was a heated exchange between Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri and the Trinamool MP, too. Marshals had to intervene to bring the situation under control. Sen said after the House was adjourned that Puri threatened him and "was about to attack me physically". "My colleagues came to my rescue. This was very unfortunate," he lamented.
RJD member Manoj Jha later said the IT minister's attitude was "unfortunate". ‘‘The way the IT Minister made a statement amidst the uproar, it seems that the government only wanted to make a mockery of this issue," Jha said.
The Rajya Sabha was later adjourned till Friday, the third time through the day. It was first adjourned till 12 noon and then till 2 pm after MPs trooped into the well of the House raising slogans and holding placards. "Members seem to be not interested in discussing people's issues," Rajya Sabha Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said, adjourning the proceedings earlier in the day.
The statement that the minister laid on the table of the House was similar to the one he had made on July 19, a day after reports appeared of journalists, political rivals and critics of the government being targeted through surveillance using Israeli company NSO Group's Pegasus spyware.
In the statement, Vaishnaw, whose phone number was among those listed as compromised by Washington Post, called the reports an "attempt to malign the Indian democracy and its well-established institutions".
"A highly sensational story was published by a web portal last night. Many over-the-top allegations were made," he said. "The press reports appeared a day before the monsoon session of Parliament. This can't be a coincidence."