Force-feeding row triggers national outrage; probe ordered, Shiv Sena expresses regret
Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava
New Delhi: Ruling BJP ally Shiv Sena on Wednesday came under attack from the opposition parties after a video showing some of its MPs - who were apparently angry over not being served Maharashtrian food - allegedly forcing a Muslim catering supervisor to break his Ramzan fast and eat a chapati, triggered a political storm in Parliament.
While the Congress targeted the Narendra Modi government for the act, which they described as a "crime against secularism", the government first refused to comment on the issue as it involved a key ally, but seeing an angry opposition, offered to probe the matter.
Congress, NCP and Samajwadi Party today slammed as "unpardonable" and "uncultured" the alleged act of Shiv Sena MPs forcing a Muslim catering supervisor to break his Ramzan fast.
With the Opposition questining its silence on the issue, the ruling BJP termed the incident at Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi as "unfortunate".
"We are deeply hurt by the unfortunate incident that took place in Maharashtra Sadan. The MPs should ensure they maintain a decent character in public life, which would keep their dignity intact in front of the masses," BJP`s national spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.
Hussain, who was here to attend an iftar party organised by Mumbai BJP, said that if the MPs had any complaints about the food, they should have either approached the IRCTC officials or the railway minister himself.
"There was no need for them to vent their anger on a catering employee," he said.
But the BJP leader also said that the incident should not be politicised. "The MP who was involved in the incident has regretted his actions. While we believe that the incident was very unfortunate, it should not be politicised which is equally unfortunate," Hussain said.
Shiv Sena MP Rajan Vichare, who was in the midst of the controversy, apologised for his action, even though he said that he had no idea about the man`s religion.
Though all BJP leaders and ministers, including union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, refused to comment on the matter, party patriarch LK Advani just said "this is wrong."
Earlier in the day, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray while terming the incident as an attempt to "silence" the party`s voice, said that his party had no hatred for other religions.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan ordered a probe into the complaints made by MPs regarding the services at Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi.
An official statement from the Chief Minister`s Office said that state`s Chief Secretary JS Saharia will submit a detailed report after an inquiry.
The Opposition MPs also wrote a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan seeking a probe into the Maharashtra Sadan incident.
The MPs unanimously condemned the incident and called for strict action against the Shiv Sena MPs involved in it.
"We would request you to uphold the dignity of the House by ordering an inquiry and also direct the government for an immediate inquiry and appropriate action so that such wanton behaviour is no longer repeated," they said in a letter to the Speaker.
Sources said besides the leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, NCP leader Tariq Anwar, Jaiprakash Narayan Yadav (RJD), P Karunakaran (CPI-M), N K Premachandran (RSP), E T Muhammad Basheer (IUML) and Jose K Mani (Kerala Congress-M) are signatories to the letter.
In their letter, the MPs said, "The incident turns much controversial and inhuman as the victim of this barbaric act is a Muslim who is fasting during Ramzan".
The Opposition MPs sought action against 11 Shiv Sena MPs - Sanjay Raut (Rajya Sabha), Anandrao Adsul (Amravati), Rajan Vichare (Thane), Arvind Sawant (Mumbai-South), Hemant Godse (Nashik), Krupal Tumane (Ramtek), Ravindra Gaikwad (Osmanabad), Vinayak Raut (Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg), Shivaji Adhalrao Patil (Shirur), Rahul Shewale (Mumbai-South Central) and Shrikant Shinde (Kalyan).
Meanwhile, the Indian Railways` IRCTC today constituted a fact-finding team to inquire into the Maharashtra Sadan incident.
The IRCTC asked the fact-finding team to submit its report in three days. The committee comprises Amitabh Nigam, Group General Manager of Departmental Catering Service, and Maitreyi Brahma, Group General Manager of HRD.
The catering service in Maharashtra Sadan is run by IRCTC and Arshad, the supervisor is an employee of the corporation.
After the incident, IRCTC suspended the service in the Sadan in protest. It had also complained to the Maharashtra Resident Commissioner of hurting religious sentiments of the staffer.
The incident caused a national outrage and a huge uproar in and outside Parliament amid demands for action against the MPs involved.
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