The Rajya Sabha descended into chaos Thursday as HRD Minister Smriti Irani read out “derogatory” references to goddess Durga from a poster purportedly circulated by students on “Mahishasura martyrdom day”, and the Congress reacted sharply. The House was adjourned halfway through Smriti’s reply to the debate on the controversies at Hyderabad Central University and JNU.
The poster Smriti quoted in the Lok Sabha Wednesday and the Rajya Sabha Thursday described Durga as a “sex worker” who enticed Mahishasura into marriage. “Every year, thousand of Durga Puja pandals are erected showing her in a bad light, in a sexual position,” the minister said.
CPM and Congress MPs led by Anand Sharma said it would set a dangerous precedent if MPs started reading inflammatory material in the House. “What is happening here? This is highly objectionable. Why is the minister repeating what all is written in the Durga Mahishasura pamphlet? What are we reducing this House to?” Sharma said.
Smriti had got into arguments with CPM leader Sitaram Yechury. To Yechury’s quotes from Macbeth, she replied, “Fair is foul and foul is fair,” implying she was being wrongly targeted over the campus controversies. Referring to the accusation that Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula was driven to suicide because he was accused of assaulting an ABVP student leader, she said, “What are as a united House telling this generation of ours? Are children to be protected if they belong to one ideology? Do we say to them that if you are a Dalit child belonging to an ideology not favourable to us, you can die for all we care?” To this Yechury interrupted Irani and asked her to focus on the issue at hand.
She said contrary to claims of some MPs that police had never entered JNU before the crackdown a few weeks ago, in 2009 cops were called in and lathicharged students.
On another controversy, she said: “There is a charge on me that Visva -Bharati VC was removed on my orders. I would like to mention he had charges of sexual misconduct and was removed after due law and procedure was followed.” She defended the decision to scrap FYUP from Delhi University and denied allegations of saffronisation of Indian Council of Historical Research.