Lok Sabha witnessed passionate exchange between the members of Opposition and the ruling combine as the lower house debated on the issue of ‘intolerance’ on Monday. The subject of “rising intolerance” has gained proportions after a string of protest by the authors, multi-lingual writers, artists, film-makers and several other eminent personalities over the incidents of Dadri lynching, murders of rationalist thinkers and controversy over beef consumption. The debate on ‘intolerance’ will resume in Lok Sabha on Tuesday. Congress party Vice President Rahul Gandhi is set to speak on the issue.
The stalemate began soon into the debate with CPI (M) member Mohammed Salim citing the report of a news magazine having a contentious remark attributed to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. As the latter strongly rebutted the remark attributed to him, several members from the ruling BJP demanded an apology from the senior Left-front MP. Salim, however, remained firm on his speech.
Soon as the passionate exchange only grew louder, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan ordered to keep the said remark out of record till the time its authenticity is verified.
But the issue, nonetheless, paved the way for Congress party and other opposition members to launch a criticism against the BJP-led NDA government.
The debate, which went on till late in the evening, saw a strong counter-offensive by the BJP MPs, who claimed that the incidents cited by the Opposition to reflect “rising intolerance” had been taking place in the country for decades. BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi also cited Home Ministry figures to insist that incidents of communal violence had come down since NDA came to power in May 2014.
“In the name of religion, atrocities are being committed and the government is keep silent instead of taking strong action against killing of minorities, dalit and rationlists,” CPI(M) member Salim alleged during his speech on the subject.
The opposition also strongly denounced the remarks made by MoS External Affairs Gen VK Singh after Dalit killing incident in Haryana. Two toddlers were burnt to death in an alleged caste-violence incident in Ballabgarh in Haryana.
Seconding the senior CPI (M) member, Congress MP from Kerala, KC Venugopal added that it is only in the last 15-16 months that the chain of events have led to “destruction of secular fabric” of the country. Raising Dadri issue, killing of Dalit kids in Haryana, and the string of several controversial comments made by the members and minister of the ruling BJP, the MP from Kerala also took on the Modi government over its “silence”.
“No mature remark from the Prime Minister came even after series of incidents of intolerance,” KC Venugopal said adding, “Inaction gave courage to intolerant forces”.
But the ruling party members contested merits in the allegations raised by the Opposition.
BJP MP Meenakshi Lekhi described the artistes, filmmakers, writers who have been returned their awards and honours in protest, as “intellectual mercenaries”. She further went on to allege that such people are not concerned about how they are tarnishing the “country’s image and the relations between communities”.
“A lot of people are worried about the atmosphere of alleged intolerance being created and those who are returning their awards are returning the rewards for political considerations,” she said.
Referring to the Dadri incident, Lekhi contended whether responsibility of such a thing should be on the state government or the Centre.
But the MP from New Delhi faced protest by the MPs from Kerala when she cited the recent incident of police ‘raid’ at Kerala House premises following a complaint by an outfit that its canteen served beef. Lekhi had said if the police had not acted, then “Dadri like incident could have happened (there)”.
Targeting the principal opposition party Congress further, she asked what have they have done for the minorities and also recalled instances of books banned by previous governments.
Carrying the debate forward, TMC member Dinesh Trivedi said something has perhaps gone wrong, “if not why, are we talking about the subject of intolerance”, adding that he however, “will not accept this country is not tolerant… We belong to the country of Mahatma Gandhi”.
Meanwhile, Biju Janata Dal MP B Mahtab said those in power should speak out against alleged instances of intolerance and their silence has created a “culture of impunity”. “Political correctness and social etiquette keeps intolerance in check,” Mr. Mahtab noted.
(With inputs from the PTI)