“What was the name of the prime minister? Wait, there he is, sipping tea… You can ask him,” law minister Dinesh Rai points towards Akhilesh Pratap Singh. The 50-year-old Singh, who claims to be a member of the state BJP working committee, is the prime minister of the ‘Youth Parliament 2018’, an event being held in Jaipur to discuss the repealing of Article 370.
The three-day event that started on Wednesday has been organised by Himalaya Parivar, which has RSS leader Indresh Kumar as its Sanrakshak, and Youth for Nation, an organisation affiliated with Rashtriya Sewa Bharti, which is also inspired by the RSS, according to its website.
The ‘House’ is currently adjourned for a break after a fierce debate that saw participants including Rai — a volunteer for Youth for Nation and an assistant professor at a private college in Jaipur — presenting numerous arguments in favour of the motion to repeal the autonomous status given to Jammu and Kashmir. “Honourable speaker, it’s about time Article 370 was abolished because it is unconstitutional. It is also discriminatory towards women’s property rights in Kashmir,” Rai says in the House.
“Arey Hindi me bol (hey, speak in Hindi),” a voice from the crowd suggests, followed by a peal of laughter, leading Rai to demand an apology for unparliamentary language. Many parliamentarians seemed to be not well informed on the topic of the debate. “I had never heard about Article 370. I was sent here by my college. I think this activity is part of the National Service Scheme,” says 20-year-old Shubham Upadhyay, an MP of the ruling party in the mock parliament.
College students fidget with their mobile phones as speakers hold forth on topics ranging from nationalism to ‘threats’ that India faced. “Slogans such as ‘Bharat tere tukre tukre karenge’, ‘Inshallah Inshallah’ and ‘Afzal ham sharminda hai, tere kaatil zinda hai’ are given in JNU,” says Swami Pragyananand Maharaj, one of the speakers. He adds that it is most unfortunate that such slogans are given in favour of Afzal Guru, who was convicted by the Supreme Court.
One of the participants strings together a few verses after speaking about the people who chant ‘anti-national’ slogans at JNU. “Upvan se jo ghat kare wo shakh tod di jayegi, aur matrubhumi ki or uthi har ankh phod di jayegi (Those branches that hurt the garden will be broken and every eye that looks at our motherland will be blinded),” he says, inviting applause and cheers from the audience.
Opposition members in the mock parliament appear to be discontented with the proceedings. “I came here thinking there would be a neutral debate on relevant issues, but it seems that only a particular ideology is being promoted,” says C B Yadav, the leader of opposition and assistant professor in the University of Rajasthan.