Parliament debates JNU row, Rohith Vemula's suicide; Smriti Irani accuses Congress of 'political opportunism'
Delhi: Heated exchange of words was witnessed in Lok Sabha on Wednesday as the raging JNU row and suicide of Dalit student Rohith Vemula was taken up for discussion with both ruling and opposition sides underlining their credentials as 'nationalists'.
The Opposition on the one hand accused the government of muzzling the voice of the youth and "mercilessly crushing" the principles of democracy, while the BJP on the other targeted Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi for his "support" to those standing with hanged Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.
HRD Minister Smriti Irani led the government's charge and said that she was being targeted by the Congress for contesting against Rahul Gandhi in Amethi Parliamentary constituency.
Others who articulated government's point of view was BJP MP Anurag Thakur, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
Congress' Jyotiradiya Scindia slams govt
Earlier, initiating the discussion, the Congress leader Jyotiradiya Scindia hit out at the central government, saying, "Inside parliament, the ministers of this government take oath of constitution and outside they crush it. Using government machinery they are crushing the voices of those who oppose the ideology of RSS."
"They targeted Kanhaiya Kumar just because he was opposed to the ideology of RSS and had defeated an ABVP candidate in JNU election," he added.
"What we have seen in the last two years is an atmosphere of intolerance in the country. There is every possible attempt to crush opposing viewpoint," Scindia said, as per IANS.
He said party had been demanding action against Irani and Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya over the suicide of Vemula.
Anurag Thakur, Venkaiah Naidu take on Opposition
On the other hand, Thakur accused Rahul of standing with anti-nationals and said the Congress would have to decide "whether you are with those who attacked our parliament or those who protect it? You will have to decide whether you are with ideology of Gandhiji or Maoists."
"Your leader goes and sympathises with those who were celebrating Afzal Guru as a martyr," he alleged.
Thakur began by invoking the sacrifices of Captain Pawan Kumar, an alumni of JNU, who died in a gun battle with terrorists.
"For them (Congress), it is family first, party next and nation last. But for us, it is nation first, party next and self last," he alleged.
Naidu, in his speech, also hit out at the Congress, saying no one was terming JNU as anti-national. He said it was duty of entire parliament to speak with one voice against those who had raised anti-national slogans.
HRD Minister Smriti Irani makes forceful statement in Lok Sabha
When it came to her turn to speak, HRD Minister Smriti Irani made a forceful statement in Lok Sabha, saying Kanhaiya Kumar and some other students had been found indulging in anti-national activities by the JNU authorities themselves.
She also made an emotional pitch with regard to the suicide by Dalit student Rohith Vemula of Hyderabad University, insisting that her ministry had no role in his death and the deceased himself had said in his suicide note that nobody should be held responsible for his action.
Replying to the charged day-long debate on recent incidents in JNU and Hyderabad University during which the government faced Opposition onslaught, a combative Irani said she was being targeted by Congress for contesting against Rahul Gandhi in Amethi Parliamentary constituency.
"I will not seek forgiveness for doing my duty. You (Congress members) never wanted to listen to my reply," she said aloud, as the Congress members, Left parties and Trinamool Congress staged a walkout as she was speaking.
During last 20 months as Minister, Irani said she tried to do justice to students by trying to address their complaints without asking for their "caste or religion".
Rejecting the charge of saffronising education, she said, she would quit politics if it was established she made any attempt to do so.
Most of the vice chancellors are Congress appointees, Irani said, adding she had asked them to listen to the students who come from different backgrounds and address their issues.
"Help me build the nation, not destroy it from within," she said stressing, "I respect your patriotism, don't demean mine. I have my idea of India. Don't demean it," she said, as per PTI.
Citing documents, she said, report by JNU's security people observed that some students were indulging in anti-national sloganeering even though the students had sought permission to hold a "poetry" event.
Although the permission was denied, the students went ahead with the programme which turned into a platform for shouting anti-India slogans like "Bharat teri barbadi tak jang rahegi, jang rahegi" (the struggle would continue till destruction of Indian state), she said.
The Minister based her contention on the report filed by the private security staff of JNU with regard to the developments on January 9.
Accusing the Communists of using students as weapons against state, she asserted that anti-national slogans cannot be allowed under the garb of freedom of speech.
To buttress her case about undeserving activities on the JNU campus, she cited an event to observe 'Mahishasura Martyrdom Day' in which Goddess Durga is depicted in a derogatory manner.
Producing pamphlets to support her contention, she challenged Trinamool members to a discussion on this and dared them to show these pamphlets in West Bengal.
She wondered how such things got into the minds of students and added that it was because of the wrong policies of the previous government and added "don't make education a battle field" as the consequences could be grave.
As regards the issue of suicide by Vemula, Irani responded to attacks on her by saying in a choked voice, "a mother who gives birth, cannot take lives".
She said Vemula had been denied financial assistance and was expelled by the Executive Council of the University, none of whose members had been appointed by NDA.
"They were all Congress appointees," she added.
Irani also replied to questions as to why she wrote letters to the Hyderabad University authorities which are alleged to have led to Vemula's suicide.
The HRD Minister said Congress leader Hanumantha Rao had repeatedly written to her seeking her intervention in the affairs of the university for "justice".
Contending that she had only fulfilled her responsibilities for which she will not apologise, she named a number of MPs, including Pappu Yadav, Saugata Roy, Assadudin Owaisi and Shashi Tharoor, who had made requests like admissions in various schools.
She said as soon as she came to know about Vemula in the morning of the fateful day, she had tried to speak to Telangana Chief Minister KC Rao but was told that he was busy. "I am still waiting" for his return call, she said.
Citing a report of Telangana police, she said Vemula was not provided any medical aid for over 12 hours as there was effort to make it a political issue.
"Politics took precedence and medical aid could not reach Vemula in time," she said.
(With Agency inputs)
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