The Lok Sabha on Friday witnessed high drama over a Bill that seeks to remove the Congress president as a trustee of the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Trust.
Despite vociferous protests from the Opposition parties and a walkout by the Congress, The Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on Friday, with the government saying that the Bill was about ending the “politicisation” of Jallianwala Bagh and “acknowledging the contribution of the common man” who helped set up the memorial.
The Bill was passed by a voice vote. Amendments moved by Opposition parties were defeated by division of votes.
The Bill paves the way for the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha to be a member of the trust. The amendment Bill also confers power to the Central government to terminate the term of a nominated trustee before the expiry of the term without assigning any reason.
Currently, the trust which manages the memorial has the Prime Minister as the chairperson, and the Congress president, Culture Minister, Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Punjab governor, and Punjab Chief Minister as its members. The current Lok Sabha, just like the previous one, does not have a Leader of the Opposition as the Congress tally fell short of the required 10 per cent mark.
Congress MP Gurjeet Aujla said the government wants to re-write the history by removing the Congress president from the trust. “This government wants to distort history, destroy history. You cannot remove the sacrifice of the Congress to the country’s freedom struggle,” he said.
As Aujla attacked the ruling BJP and “like-minded organisations” for “not taking part in the freedom struggle”, the ruling party members countered him with slogans.
The Congress got support from the DMK’s Dayanidhi Maran, who requested the government to withdraw the Bill. “We respect freedom fighters and I am proud of them. Congress is the only party which fought the freedom struggle. Other parties in the country are a byproduct of Congress,” he said.
BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab said keeping the Congress president as a trustee would bring no harm. “The UPA government had also included the Leader of the Opposition as a member. Let us not belittle ourselves by removing the Congress president,” Mahtab said.
The BJD leader got support from NCP’s Supriya Sule, who said the Bill was “petty”.
In response, Culture Minister Prahlad Patel said the Modi government was just “reviewing (history) and acknowledging those who have been forgotten”.
“The majority contribution for acquiring land for the memorial was given by common man and it was also common people who sacrificed their life there,” he said.
Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal, who is a leader of NDA ally Akali Dal, said members of the Congress who were involved in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.