The Opposition came together on Wednesday to criticise the BJP and its governments at the Centre and in Gujarat for the assault on Dalits in the state.
Even as the government tried to turn the tables on the Opposition by citing the number of attacks against Dalits under Congress rule and by highlighting the “welfare measures” taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for weaker sections, the Opposition barring the AIADMK continuously raised slogans and disrupted the Question Hour, seeking permission to speak on the issue in the Lok Sabha.
Congress MPs, leading from the front, trooped to the well of the House, while TMC parliamentarians came out of their seats but distinctly kept their distance. Left, NCP and SP members stood up to.
However, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan did not agree and allowed the matter to be raised only in Zero Hour.
The ministers who were replying to questions were interrupted by Congress and TMC MPs, who shouted slogans.
The PM was present in the House till 11.30 am. He left while the sloganeering was on. The TMC staged a walkout soon after the PM left.
Later, raising the issue in Zero Hour, Congress MP Kodikkunnil Suresh targeted the RSS and BJP in the Lok Sabha over attacks on Dalits in Gujarat, saying that the Hindutva organisation was working for a “Dalit-mukt Bharat”, which was “sponsored” by the BJP to polarise communities ahead of next year’s Assembly polls in states.
The Congress wanted constitution of a joint parliamentary committee to go into the incident, but Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh strongly refuted the party’s charges and cited figures to claim that atrocities against Dalits had declined in Gujarat since 2001, when Modi took over as chief minister of the state.
Rajnath also commended the state government for its “swift and effective” action on the matter.
Referring to largescale protests by Dalits following the incident and “Emergency-like” situation in parts of the BJP-ruled state, Suresh said Dalits had lost faith in the government. When he attributed the violence to the RSS and upper caste lobby, there were protests from the Treasury benches.
Suresh said Dalits had tried to commit suicide as they had no faith in the state government. “Violence is the RSS agenda. The RSS is trying for a Dalit-mukt Bharat. The government has totally failed. It was a BJP-sponsored attack. What is going on? Is this the Gujarat model?” the Congress MP said.
Terming the incident “very unfortunate”, Rajnath Singh sought to attack the Congress for the record of attacks on Dalits under its rule in Gujarat. The “atrocities” were high during 1991-99, he said. Incidentally, a part of this time, from 1995-2001, Gujarat was ruled by the BJP, mostly under Keshubhai Patel.
The Home Minister went on to give a break-up of the incidents, as 32,255 in 2004, 29,741 in 2005, and 37,000 in 2009.
Rajnath Singh added that the Gujarat government was planning a special court for trial in the case. “I congratulate the state government for its swift and effective action,” he said.
“No government in India has done so much for the poor and Dalits as the Modi government has,” the Home Minister claimed as he spoke about schemes like Jan Dhan and Start-Up India.
Expressing dissatisfaction over the Home Minister’s reply, Congress and TMC MPs staged a walkout. Before walking out, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge objected to the government digging up “the history of 65 years (under the Congress) to respond to current issues”.
His remark that 80 per cent of BJP leaders’ ancestors were in the Congress infuriated Information & Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu, who demanded that the Speaker delete the reference. “Today they said 80 per cent of our ‘baap’ was in the Congress. I, Sadananda Gowda, Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh — none of us had ever smelled of the Congress. I feel sad that somebody talks about our parents when they are not here to defend themselves,” Naidu said.
Speaking on the issue, expelled RJD MP Pappu Yadav said nothing was above humanity and animals cannot be worshipped at the cost of humans. “I can kill 1 lakh cows to save a human,” he said. Sumedhanand Saraswati (BJP) objected to Yadav’s comments, saying it would hurt people’s feelings.
with PTI inputs