IN THE FACE OF COMBINED OPPOSITION ONSLAUGHT, MODI MINISTER SAYS PROUD OF RSS
NEW DELHI – The issue of forced conversions of some 200 Muslims in Agra rocked Indian parliament for the second day Thursday with opposition members creating uproar and demanding immediate discussion on the matter, which they said could have grave consequences like causing riots, according to media reports. Rajya Sabha meanwhile witnessed uproarious scenes as Congress lodged strong protest against eulogizing of Nathuram Godse at a function held in Maharashtra earlier this month.
The issue triggered a war of words between opposition and treasury benches, even as the government expressed readiness for a debate and possible legislation on conversions, reported Press Trust of India.
As soon as the House met for the day, Opposition members belonging to Congress, TMC, SP, RJD and AAP came to the Well demanding suspension of Question Hour to discuss the issue.
Speaker Sumitra Mahajan declined to suspend the Question Hour, saying she would allow Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge to speak later during the Zero Hour and if necessary allow a discussion.
Her repeated pleas failed and the opposition continued to raise the slogan ‘Hindu, Muslim, Sikhs bhai bhai’.
While members belonging to NCP, AIMIM and Left parties kept protesting from the aisle, the Question Hour continued with most of the questions being taken up.
Acknowledging that it is a serious issue, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said, “Government is ready to discuss and build a consensus on having a legislation on (religious) conversion.”
Kharge said the matter should be taken up as a special case. “It is a very, very serious matter and there is threat to the unity of the country,” he said.
He said religious conversions are happening and everybody is giving statements outside the House and even encouraging such things.
Countering the allegation, Naidu said, “There is no problem to safety, unity and integrity of the country… Don’t politicize the issue.”
Urging the Speaker to accept adjournment motion moved by opposition members on the issue, Kharge said a few people were out to tarnish the country’s secular image. “They are bringing the country a bad name and sowing seeds of poison.”
Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose party is in power in Uttar Pradesh, said incidents like these can cause “very grave situation” in country and ignite riots, inviting strong protests from BJP members.
“I am speaking in your support. You should save yourself from such infamy,” he told the treasury benches, while claiming that those behind the conversion were supporters of the ruling party.
TMC, RJD, CPI(M), NCP and AIMIM members also supported demand for an immediate debate on the issue.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy said government was ready for a discussion. However, the matters mentioned in the list of business for the Lower House should be taken up first, he said.
Union minister and Shiv Sena MP Anant Geete objected to comments from some opposition members that riots may occur in country and that the nation was in danger.
The Speaker asked the government and opposition to sit with her in the afternoon after Zero Hour to decide on the timing of discussion, to which they agreed.
Earlier, during the Question Hour, the Speaker said proper notice should be given for a discussion as the government has already expressed its willingness to discuss the matter.
“You are interested in slogans only, you are not interested in discussions… This is not the proper way,” she told the protesting members.
With the Speaker not accepting the opposition demand, Kharge wondered whether the discussion should take place on the streets.
As the pandemonium continued, Mahajan adjourned the House for 10 minutes at around 11.55 AM.
Under attack from the opposition members, Government disapproved of any such event hailing Mahatma Gandhi’s killer but said no organisation should be defamed.
The Upper House saw two brief adjournments over the issue as Congress members protested holding placards in the aisles and raising slogans, while charging right-wing organisations with lending their support to it.
Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Husain Dalwai (Cong) said he has written to Maharashtra Chief Minister over hosting the event attended by some religious leaders and former MLAs.
“Mahatma Gandhi’s killer is being eulogized by hosting his ‘Shaurya Diwas’ in Maharashtra…These people talk of development, but are trying to create a rift in society,” he said, accusing the right-wing organisations of indulging in such things, including religious conversions that created tension in society.
The forcible conversion of about 200 Muslims in Agra had echoed in Parliament on Wednesday as well, with opposition members raising the issue in both houses. Nearly 200 members of some 60 Muslim families living in a slum on Agra’s outskirts reportedly embraced Hinduism on Monday, a claim later denied by the Muslims there.
Despite a massive controversy around the alleged conversion, a defiant Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on Thursday said it will continue with another – and bigger – ceremony planned in Aligarh on Christmas this year.
While the BJP has denied its role in the Agra conversions, the party’s firebrand MP Yogi Adityanath has said that he will go to Aligarh on December 25 for what the right-wing groups call a ‘Purkhon ki ghar vapsi’ (Coming home of the ancestors) ceremony. “This is not conversion but homecoming. My program is in Aligarh and it will happen. Those who want to return voluntarily will be welcome,” Adityanath said.