New Delhi: Union Human Resources Development (HRD) MinisterSmriti Irani on Thursday kicked up a controversy by citing 'Mahishasur Martyrdom Day and Goddess Durga' to support government action against alleged 'anti-national' activities in the JNU campus.
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Irani defended the action against students of JNU, saying Kanhaiya Kumar and some other students had been found indulging in 'anti-national' activities by the JNU authorities themselves.
The HRD minister, while linking JNU incident with violation of freedom of speech, brought up the topic of 'Mahishasur Martyrdom Day'.
"What is Mahishasur Martyrdom Day, madam speaker? Our government has been accused. I miss today Sugata Bose and Saugata Roy in the House - champions of free speech, because I want to know if they will discuss this particular topic which I am about to enunciate in the House, on the streets of Kolkata. I dare them this," she said.
"Posted on October 4, 2014. A statement by the SC, ST and minority students of JNU. And what do they condemn? May my God forgive me for reading this," she further said.
"Durga Puja is the most controversial racial festival, where a fair-skinned beautiful goddess Durga is depicted brutally killing a dark-skinned native called Mahishasur. Mahishasur, a brave self-respecting leader, tricked into marriage by Aryans. They hired a sex worker called Durga, who enticed Mahishasur into marriage and killed him after nine nights of honeymooning during sleep," she added.
Irani's remarks in the Upper House drew criticism from leaders across political parties.
Janata Dal (United) accused Irani of violating established norms of the Parliament.
"Parliament has some established norms, objectionable remakrs about gods, goddesses, prophets shouldn't be made. Smt. Irani has violated norms today," JD (U) leader K.C. Tyagi said.
Echoing similar sentiments, Congress said that they will not tolerate insult of gods and goddesses.
"The HRD Minister is using derogatory words for gods, goddesses. We are ashamed of listening to it, it was very insulting. We will not tolerate insult to gods, goddesses," Congress leader P.L. Punia said.
Meanwhile, Communist Party of India (Marxist) dubbed HRD minister's remarks as 'blasphemous', alleging that the ruling party was trying to distract the attention from pressing matters.
"It was a deliberate attempt to filibuster the whole discussion. The government had absolutely no answers to questions that were raised. They try to distract it by saying such blasphemous things. What is that authentication, whom they are quoting, what is being said?... And a cabinet minister makes a statement that can create havoc in our society," CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said.