A demand to ban fairness products and their advertisements, to the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and coercion in the Rajya Sabha elections, to arbitrariness by the CBFC in certifying films — the Upper House on Tuesday saw a range of issues being raised by MPs during Zero Hour.
The Congresss Viplove Thakur caught the attention of everyone with her demand that fairness products and their advertisements be banned. She said such products encouraged discrimination on the basis of skin colour, and that the claims of their manufacturers of enhancing skin colour tone were never tested.
Her call for a ban on such products found all-round support.
Subramanian Swamy, however, again triggered an uproar with his attempt to raise the issue of the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
Swamy, a nominated member, said there was a need to review new evidence from the National Archives on the assassination of Gandhi, claiming he had gone through some of those files. According to him, a debate was needed as a lot of scurrilous comments had been made.
“Even parliamentarians are making these remarks and the Supreme Court had to pull them up,” he said in an apparent reference to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi. This provoked the Congress benches, with Deputy Leader Anand Sharma saying Swamy had a “mischievous agenda”.
When Deputy Chairman P J Kurien asked Swamy not to take any names, he said, “I will not take any name except Mahatma Gandhi. I will not take any other Gandhis name.” This provoked Congress members again.
Continuing, Swamy said, “Mahatma Gandhi was not subjected to any postmortem (and) as a consequence, there was a dispute in the trial on the number of bullets fired… Newspapers said four bullets, the prosecution said three bullets.”
Amidst protests, the MP could not continue and his allotted time got over.
Raising the issue of the functioning of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in the wake of the Shyam Benegal committee report on its revamp, nominated member Swapan Dasgupta said the element of “arbitrariness” that had crept into policy-making was “disturbing”. Referring to the Udta Punjab controversy, he pointed out that while the CBFC had recommended 89 cuts in the film, the Bombay High Court had allowed its release with only one cut.
“Between 89 cuts and one cut, there is a wide difference. It smacks of a degree of arbitrariness. In any case, the norms which govern film certification — the word censorship should not be used really — are subjective. It depends on interpretation of what constitutes morality, what constitutes decency, what constitutes sovereignty, public law, etc. It is subjective. But if the subjectivity extends from one extreme to another — between 89 and 1 — certainly, this is a cause for intense alarm,” Dasgupta said.
SP MP Javed Ali Khan spoke about the presence of a senior RSS functionary at an Urdu promotion event organised by the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language. Khan said that instead of focusing on the language, the meet ended up seeing sermons on patriotism, and the number of wives a Muslim should have.
The Opposition, led by the Congress and JMM, accused the ruling BJP of coercion and threats in the recent biennial polls to the Upper House to get its candidates elected in Jharkhand.