Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad on Thursday accused the government of destroying educational institutions and creating rifts in the name of nationalism and anti-nationalists.
Speaking during a discussion in the Upper House on the JNU sedition row and the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad University, the Congress leader urged the government not to hold innocent people guilty of the crimes of others as “part of a pick-and-choose” policy.
“Ahmed ki topi Mehmood pe mat daliye (Don’t put Ahmed’s cap on Mehmood),” said Azad.
He said that he was speaking for the entire Opposition in condemning slogans about breaking India into pieces that were allegedly raised in JNU on February 9 and was all for strong action against the culprits.
But Azad also asked the government to take strong action against “those who tried to divide the nation through doctored videos,” stating that it was a fit case for sedition charges.
“Whether they are persons from channels or anyone else, shouldn’t action be taken?” he asked.
Stating that the government had failed in dealing with the violence at the Patiala House Courts complex, in which JNU students union president Kanhaiya Kumar and mediapersons were assaulted by lawyers, Azad accused the government and Delhi Police of “saving” BJP MLA O P Sharma and the lawyers who were allegedly involved in the attacks.
Azad demanded that a House Committee be set up, with a member of the Opposition as its leader, to probe the matter.
Using humour to hit out at the BJP, Azad said that those who have become nationalists recently were going overboard to prove their nationalism, and likened it to a Brahmin who becomes a Muslim and then tries to eat more “pyaz” (onions) than ordinary Muslims.
“Itna pyaz mat khayein ki khatam ho jaye (don’t eat so much onion that it gets over),” said Azad, with a smile.
The Congress party did not need a lesson in nationalism from the BJP as it had “a long and illustrious history”, Azad said. “Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others,” he said, addressing the government.
“Don’t teach us about nationalism. Rahul Gandhi does not have to show nationalism, it runs in his blood and that of his father and forefathers. It runs in the whole party. Let there be a discussion on nationalism for a week if need be, so that things become clear once and for all,” Azad said.
Claiming that the atmosphere in educational institutions had changed ever since the BJP government took over, Azad said, “These institutions were created by us. You have not made them, but don’t destroy them.”
During his speech, Azad also referred to the removal of the Vice Chancellor of Visva Bharati University, rollback of Delhi University’s four-year undergraduate programme, the protest at the Film and Television Institute of India over the appointment of Gajendra Chauhan as chairman, the resignation of IIT Delhi’s director, and the suspension of Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle by IIT Madras.
On Rohith Vemula’s suicide, Azad alleged that the ABVP had victimised him, compelling him to take his life. “The ruling party youth wing drove him to suicide,” he alleged. “How come ABVP has come to the centrestage in Hyderabad University and Delhi University?” he asked.
Azad also cited Minister of State for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya’s letter to the VC of Hyderabad Central University, and four letters sent by the HRD ministry to university officials about “anti national activities” and the “violent attack on ABVP unit president Sushil Kumar”. Vemula was suspended along with five others for their alleged role in the attack.
Azad blamed the government for branding the university as a den of casteist, extremist and anti-national politics, and not just one student.
He alleged that while HRD Minister Smriti Irani had stated that Vemula had not blamed anyone for his death, he had spent time with the Dalit student’s mother and brother. He added that he was given a letter written by the Dalit scholar to the Vice Chancellor on February 18 which laid the blame on the VC and the Chief Warden.
Reading out the letter, Azad claimed Vemula gave two suggestions to the VC: to serve 10 mg of sodium cyanide to all Dalit students at the time of admission, and supply a rope to the rooms of all Dalit students through the chief warden.