The Upper House witnessed a brief stand-off between the Opposition and the government Friday over the killing of two cattle traders in Jharkhand’s Latehar district, with the former demanding the setting up of a House committee to probe the incident and submit a report to Parliament.
However, the government — represented by Minority Affairs ministers Najma Heptulla and Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi — claimed that the Opposition was resorting to exaggeration and that it will first ascertain facts by writing to the Chief Minister of the BJP-ruled state.
This elicited loud protests from Congress MPs, forcing deputy chairman P J Kurien to adjourn the House for five minutes.
The MPs were referring to the death of two Muslim cattle traders, one of whom was a teenager, in March. Their bodies were found hanging from a tree with hands tied in Jhabbar village in Jharkhand’s Latehar district. The state police subsequently arrested five men, including one with links to a local gau raksha samiti (an outfit for protection
The Opposition’s offensive was led by Congress’s Ghulam Nabi Azad, JD(U)’s Sharad Yadav and CPM’s Sitaram Yechury, with all three accusing Heptulla and Naqvi of insensitivity. “This is a serious issue and the way they (the ministers) have responded… You are taking this too casually,” Yadav said.
The matter was first raised by JD(U)’s Ghulam Rasool Balyavi during the Zero Hour. “They were part of an old trade of buying and selling cattle…They were brutally hanged. I think even the British did not do this to Indians,” he said.
Balyavi then alleged that the victims’ relatives were beaten up at the police station and told to go back to Pakistan. “Who are they to ask us to go back to Pakistan,” he asked, following which many Opposition MPs joined him in support.
But ruckus broke out immediately after Naqvi’s response to Balyavi. “The member made an emotional speech… but what is the truth… Yet, I will talk to the state government about the allegation,” he said, adding, “But we can’t say anything that will destroy the communal harmony of that state.”
At this moment, Kurien intervened to remind Naqvi that a minister has to take whatever an MP says at “face value”. This prompted Heptulla to jump to her colleague’s rescue. “Sir, you are absolutely right, but we have to substantiate what has been said. We’ll write to the CM and get the facts about what happened. But I’ll also request the members to not get so emotional,” said Heptulla, which again sent the Opposition into a tizzy.
Congress and JD(U) MPs entered the Well and raised slogans, demanding the dismissal of Jharkhand government.
Azad slammed the government for “failing” to protect minority communities. Yechury then suggested that the Upper House constitute a House Committee to visit the district and probe the incident and asked Kurien to forward the request to chairman Hamid Ansari.
“It is two months since this incident has happened. The government did not do anything… it is a communal issue, it comes under the domain of national issues,” Yechury said.
Naqvi, meanwhile, continued defending the government’s stand and called for a debate on the communal situation in the country. “The game of communalism that is going on in the name of secularism… We request you to have a debate on the communal atmosphere in the country, things will be clear then,” he said.
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