The Congress on Wednesday accused the BJP government in Gujarat of trying to shield Asaram, who is serving jail term in a rape case, over the death of two children near his ashram in Ahmedabad around ten years ago. The opposition party said that the government was trying to protect Asaram by not tabling in the Assembly the report of a commission that probed the deaths, a charge denied by the BJP. The government said the report was under scrutiny and will be tabled in the Assembly after “considering various aspects”.
Around an hour before Congress and BJP MLAs indulged in open fight inside the Gujarat Assembly, Congress and BJP MLAs had a heated exchange over tabling the report of a judicial commission, set up to probe the deaths of two children near Asaram’s ashram 10 years ago, in the House.
D K Trivedi Commission was appointed by the Gujarat government to probe the circumstances under which two children studying in Asaram’s ashram at Motera in Ahmedabad were found dead near the Sabarmati riverbed in July 2008.
The commission had submitted its report to the state government in 2013.
The starred question, posed by Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani, came up for hearing during the Question Hour. Mevani sought to know why, if the report was submitted in 2013, the government did not table it on the floor of the House. Mevani asked: “Is it not mandatory on the part of the government to table the report within six months under the provisions of Section 3 (4) of the Commission of Inquiry Act? And if the report is under consideration, would it remain under consideration for ages?”
Congress MLA Niranjan Patel also asked when did the government want to table the report on the floor of the House?
Minister of State for Home Pradeepsinh Jadeja said, “The provision of tabling the report within six months is not mandatory in nature, but directive…And if Congress MLAs are concerned about this report, then there are many Commissions appointed by the previous Congress governments which have not been made public.”
Jadeja then listed various commissions appointed by Congress governments during past events like the hooch tragedy of 1985, the attack on rath yatra in Ahmedabad in 1986 and the reservation agitation of 1985. “The people of the country also want to know the truth behind anti-Sikh riots,” Jadeja said.
Senior Congress leader Shailesh Parmar replied that it was clear that the BJP government was trying to hide the deeds committed by Asaram by not making the report public. Parmar also made a guarded comment on Asaram having close relations with a top BJP leader.
Jadeja replied, “You are talking about Asaram. Do you want to see the pictures of your leaders with him? Asaram ashram was given the permission by Congress leaders. The land (for ashram) was given during Congress rule.”
He added that the BJP government had taken strict action against Asaram in the subsequent rape complaint as well. Jadeja said that it was due to the strong political will of the Gujarat government that the accused had not got bail till date.
Meanwhile, the Leader of Opposition Paresh Dhanani said that the ruling party was establishing a tradition of appointing commissions and then not making its reports public.
When Dhanani sought a clear answer whether the state wanted to table the report in the House, Jadeja said, “The government is not hiding anything and is ready to table the report after taking into consideration various aspects.”