The Rajya Sabha was adjourned till Friday morning due to disruptions during the union HRD minister Smriti Irani’s speech. Irani was unable to finish her reply to the short duration discussion on the situation of central universities with specific reference to the situation in JNU and Hyderabad university.
The opposition reacted sharply to the minister reading out from a poster purportedly circulated by students.
Just before the ruckus. deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha, PJ Kurien has asked the minister to refer to the source and authenticate if she was quoting from some poster.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury in his speech accused the BJP of trying to suppress dissent and impose their idea of a “theocratic, fascistic Hindu Rashtra” on the country. He also warned the government to “stop interfering” in universities which have been set up under central laws.
“Please do not castigate the entire student community and the institutions,” and “stop this tirade for advancing your brand of nationalism,” said Yechury.
Amid a raging controversy over suicide by a Dalit student and arrests in JNU, the CPI (M) veteran also demanded the setting up of a House Committee to examine the latest developments in various central universities. He also sought a stern action against all anti-national activities.
Yechury said “this is a serious matter” and wanted to know if opposition to the government could be called “anti-national”.
While referring to the letters written by HRD Minister Smriti Irani to the Hyderabad Central University, he alleged “interference” by the Centre.
Referring to Rohith Vemula, the Dalit student of Hyderabad University, he said stopping of his scholarship led to a situation being created for him to commit suicide.
On JNU and the speech by its student union president Kanhaiya Kumar, he said “I too want aazadi (freedom). I want freedom from hunger, Manuwad (ancient religious laws) and poverty …. You arrest me if you want to for that, but stop conspiring against our children.”
He also took a jibe at Home Minister Rajnath Singh for using “a parody tweet” of terrorist Hafeez Sayeed to attack the JNU students.
He also attacked the government and the police for inaction for the attacks at the Patiala House Court on Kanhaiya Kumar and journalists by a group of lawyers. He also demanded removal of sedition charges against Kumar.
On the government’s plans to hoist national flags in all universities, he said “the tri-colour in our heart is much larger than any national flag… we don’t want certificates of patriotism from those who killed Mahatma Gandhi”.
Participating in the debate Bhupender Yadav (BJP) questioned whether the JNU incident reflected “freedom of speech” or “speech for freedom” and sought to know how students distributed pamphlets on Kashmir.
“Anti-national activities cannot be allowed in the JNU campus in the name of freedom of speech,” he said, prompting Yechury to ask who were those who raised such slogans or distributed pamphlets.
“Universities form future generation…we cannot allow anyone to plant seeds to divide the nation there,” he said.
“But if a cultural event aimed at dividing the nation is organised in JNU, the administration has every right to interfere,” he said explaining how slogans were raised in favour of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat talking of judicial killing.
Like Yechury, the Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad demanded to constitute a House Committee to examine the sequence of events that occurred at the JNU campus on February 9.
” We must constitute a House Committee headed by a leader from any opposition party to look into the matter,” said Azad in his speech.
While intervening in the ongoing discussion, Leader of the House Arun Jaitley made the point that the discussion was ‘sidetracking the real issue’.
With inputs from PTI)