Home Minister Rajnath Singh told Rajya Sabha that the government was committed to safeguarding the religious freedom guaranteed by the Constitution to every citizen of the country.
“Main… is sadan ko yah awgat karaana chahta hoon ki yah ghatna jo ghatit hui, bahut hi afsosjanak hai aur durbhagyapoorna hai (I would like to inform this House that this incident is very regrettable and unfortunate),” Singh said.
The Indian Express reported on July 23 that a group of about 11 Shiv Sena MPs, who were apparently upset over not being served Maharashtrian food at Delhi’s New Maharashtra Sadan, had forced a Muslim catering superviser of IRCTC to eat a chapati while he was on roza.
After the incident on July 17, IRCTC had withdrawn its services from the Sadan, and complained in writing to the Maharashtra government, drawing an apology from the Resident Commissioner. The Indian Express report caused a massive uproar, and stalled Parliament, forcing the government the following day to promise that it would make a statement after ascertaining the facts of the case.
Speaking in Amethi, where he was on a daylong visit, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi accused both the Shiv Sena and BJP of doing the politics of “bullying”, which he said was “damaging” the country.
“This is the ideology of BJP and Shiv Sena. They do politics of bullying people. This is what their politics is based on. This is what they have been doing, and this is what they will do. It is damaging for the country, and this is what we must fight against,” Rahul said.
In Rajya Sabha, Singh said, “…Hamaari sarkar sabhi naagrikon ko Samvidhan dwara pradatta dharmik swatantrata ko akshunna rakhne ke liye pratibaddha hai [Our government is committed to protecting the religious freedom of every citizen guaranteed by the Constitution]… Main sabhi mananiya sadsyon ka awhaan karna chahta hoon ki hum sabhi desh mein sarvadharma sambhaav to banaaye rakhne ke liye satata prayatnasheel rahenge [I would like to call upon all Hon’ble members to ensure that we work together at all times to ensure equal respect for all religions (in India)].”
The Home Minister said that as per the report received by the Maharashtra government, on July 17, around 11.30 am, some MPs from the state had objected to the quality of the food served by IRCTC at the Sadan, and demanded that the corporation’s services be discontinued.
The MPs went to the office of the Resident Commissioner and the kitchen to lodge their protest. “While in the kitchen, the MPs allegedly tried to force-feed a chapati to manager Arshad Zubair… IRCTC has informed the state government that its decision (to stop services at the Sadan) is final and irreversible,” Singh said.
“No complaint has been filed by Arshad Zubair with the local police. The Resident Commissioner of Maharashtra Sadan has apprised the Chief Secretary of Maharashtra about this matter. However, no complaint has been filed by them either,” Singh said.
Some MPs sought to seek clarifications on the minister’s statement, but the Deputy Chairman declined to allow that.