Maharashtra govt orders probe into force-feeding incident, Shiv Sena expresses regret

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Wednesday ordered an inquiry into complaints made by MPs from the state regarding quality of services being provided at Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi.

Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava

Mumbai: Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan on Wednesday ordered an inquiry into complaints made by MPs from the state regarding quality of services being provided at Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi.

"The Chief Minister has ordered an inquiry after complaints by MPs regarding various services provided at Maharashtra Sadan," an official statement said.

State Chief Secretary JS Saharia will comply and submit report in this regard, it said.

The inquiry has been ordered close on the heels of a Shiv Sena MP being caught on video purportedly forcing a fasting Muslim employee to eat a chapati.

Chavan has also criticised the behaviour of MPs over the force-feeding incident.

"The public representatives should know their responsibility and behave accordingly," the statement quoted Chavan as saying.

Earlier, the Opposition Members of Parliament wrote a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan seeking a probe into the Maharashtra Sadan incident, in which some Shiv Sena MPs - who were apparently angry over not being served Maharashtrian food - allegedly forced a Muslim catering supervisor to break his Ramzan fast and eat a chapati.

The MPs unanimously condemned the incident and called for strict action against the Shiv Sena MPs involved in it, reports said.

"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.

When asked, Congress Chief Whip KC Venugopal said the letter has been sent 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 said they attempted to raise the issue in the House as "it brings indignity" to the position of parliamentarians and the House itself".

"The government was sadly defending the act by being silent and ignoring our requests for discussing this issue. We are of the opinion that the reply given by the Speaker is insufficient considering the severity of the issue and sentiments of the minority community being already hurt across the nation," the letter said.

Justice Markandey Katju, the Press Council of India Chairman, also criticised the Shiv Sena MPs for their irresponsible behaviour.

“Its highly condemnable, when the employee said he is on fast then why did Shiv Sena MPs not stop Katju said, adding, “Akbar and Ashoka taught us religious tolerance, we have to follow this ideology.”

Meanwhile, Shiv Sena MP Rajan Vichare, who was caught on camera force-feeding the IRCTC staffer, apologised for his crass behaviour.

"I had no idea that he is a Muslim or he was observing roza. We are sad this happened as we have been voted by all communities and we attend iftars as MPs," he earlier told a news channel. Condemning the facilities at Maharashtra Sadan, Vichare said the incident should not be given a communal colour.
Meanwhile, the Indian Railways` IRCTC today constituted a fact-finding team to inquire into the Maharashtra Sadan incident.

The IRCTC had 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, as per reports.

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 has also complained to the Maharashtra Resident Commissioner of hurting religious sentiments of the staffer.

Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray also tried to water down the controversy, saying the intention of MPs was not to hurt anybody`s religious sentiments. Shiv Sena chief also said that his party holds all religions with high regards.

Senior BJP leader LK Advani has disapproved of the alleged action of Shiv Sena MPs. "This is wrong," he told reporters when asked to comment on the incident.

In reaction to the incident, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Majid Memon said an investigation must take place in the case and strict action should be taken against people involved. NCP general secretary Tariq Anwar said Shiv Sena isn`t a responsible party and it has always been a group of anti-social people. Another NCP leader Nawab Malik said the Residence Commissioner should take up this matter with Delhi Police and all involved in the case should be arrested.

Congress leader Manish Tewari said the MPs should tender a public apology since there is no place for this kind of majoritarianism. It is absolutely reprehensible and should be condemned in the strongest possible manner, added Tewari.

"We will decide the future course of action after receiving the report," an official said.

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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