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Silenced in the House

Too much propriety could expunge debate from Parliament.

By: Express News Service |
Updated: June 9, 2015 12:39:34 am
  Parliament, Parliament debate, Parliament members, Mother Teresa, Shah Rukh Khan Too much propriety could expunge debate from Parliament.

How strange it is to discover that to our honourable members of Parliament, Mother Teresa and Shah Rukh Khan are strangers. “Reference to a stranger” is the ground for expunging them from the record, two out of 206 such acts of invasive surgery in the last year. Like the Oxford English Dictionary, the book of unparliamentary expressions grows in volume every year. The addition of Indian-origin words like keema and papad to the dictionary are celebrated annually, but the inclusion in Parliament’s negative list of terms like dhokha (fraud, used by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu) and chor (thief, by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi) is excessively puritanical.

If similar curbs were applied to the Hindi pulp fiction and film industries, they would be asphyxiated. Many Hindi words proscribed in Parliament are widely recognised cinema titles. Pooja Bhatt’s Dhokha premiered in 2007, and chor is a popular component of titles like David Dhawan’s Chor Machaaye Shor and Mithun Chakraborty’s Nobel Chor. Interestingly, only one English word appears to have been expunged: joker. That’s surprising, since the salience of the language in India increases apace, and it is as expressive as Hindi.

If the book of unparliamentary expressions grows unchecked, communication in the House would be restricted to the vocabulary of a foreign language phrasebook — set, polite, strictly utilitarian communications suitable for securing tickets, pizza and directions to the nearest conveniences. Since politics, society and their reflection in social media and other communications routinely slide into the realm of the disturbing or the bizarre, elected representatives need to be armed with robust speech that can do battle in this volatile landscape. On the contrary, their speech is a little too robust outside the House, where they sometimes rant so forcefully of blood, guts and inglory that the headlines refuse to die.

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First published on: 09-06-2015 at 12:39:31 am
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