NEW DELHI: The issue of Shiv Sena MPs force-feeding a roti to a fasting Muslim employee of the Maharashtra Sadan canteen rocked Parliament on Wednesday, triggering ugly scenes in the Lok Sabha.
The situation escalated to such a level that Opposition members and BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri were on the verge of a physical clash.
Although the government and the Shiv Sena termed the whole episode ‘unsubstantiated’, video footage surfaced later in the day revealing Shiv Sena MP Rajan Vichare force-feeding the employee. After an uproar, both Houses witnessed brief adjournments as agitated Opposition MPs wanted to raise the issue, which was countered by the Shiv Sena.
Raising the issue during Zero Hour in Lok Sabha, Congress MP from Wayanad, Kerala, M I Shanavas described the incident as “unfortunate and shocking”. Claiming that 11 MPs were involved in the incident, Shanavas said, “This is cutting the very root of secularism. Never in independent India has such a thing happened.” Shanavas also quoted the statement from the employee Arshad, charging that minorities’ faith has been tarnished by none other than the MPs.
Responding to charges leveled by Shanavas, Shiv Sena MP and Union minister Anant Geete termed the reports false, saying “those who want to respect the month of Ramzan should not make false statements in the House”, which sparked massive protests from the Opposition benches. Defending his party colleague, Geete said MPs have been staying in Maharashtra Sadan and facing serious inconveniences. He said MPs tried to meet the resident commissioner to lodge complaints regarding poor facilities as well but couldn’t meet him. “Now the Congress is trying to tarnish the image of the Modi government,” he added.
Before Geete could finish his statement, Bidhuri rushed to the Well, telling members in the Opposition that “this is India... those... go out”. A heated exchange of words ensued and Bidhuri was on the verge of a scuffle with MIM member Asaduddin Owaisi and RJD’s Pappu Yadav but was restrained by Geete.
Later, Bidhuri apologised when the House reconvened and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu disapproved of his conduct. Naidu said it is a sensitive issue and communal passion should not be triggered, while pulling up his party member for violating decency and decorum of the House.
In the Rajya Sabha, the Opposition termed it an “insult to the Constitution”. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prakash Javadekar termed it an “unsubstantiated report”. “We should not take it to the next level. Let it be ascertained. There are sensitivities involved,” he said. With furore continuing in the Opposition benches after Javadekar’s statement, deputy chairman P J Kurien said the government has assured that it would look into the facts and take action according to law.