NEW DELHI: Charges and counter charges flew in the Lok Sabha today over the issue of lynchings, with the Opposition parties targeting the Modi government and the ruling side asserting that it was the responsibility of the state governments to deal with such crimes.
As the House took up a discussion on the lynchings, members of all parties condemned the killings in the name of cow even as the Opposition parties like the Congress and Trinamool Congress accused the BJP-led government of encouraging groups behind the violence by cow vigilantes.
The BJP, in turn, slammed the Opposition parties for targeting the central government over lynchings and said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly come out strongly against such acts.
The ruling party said "certain demons" have put on the "holy garb" to defame the government, likening it to an episode in the Ramayana, and asserted that the responsibility of containing mob violence is that of the state governments.
Initiating the discussion, Leader of the Congress Mallikarjun Kharge said 'Hindustan' should not be allowed to become "lynchistan".
He alleged that this government was against minorities, Dalits and women, claiming that these sections had borne the maximum brunt of mob violence.
The Prime Minister says he is against such violence but what action has he taken, Kharge asked and added, "He (PM) says something and does something else."
He asked the government to give details of the action taken against the accused in these cases, claiming that they had become brazen because of lack of action.
Citing a number of incidents this year to say that the lynchings had mostly happened in the BJP-ruled states, Kharge said there was an atmosphere of fear and terror across the country, which has brought a bad name to India in the world.
He accused organisations like the VHP and Bajrang Dal of being involved in such violence.
"It is also being done so that your ideology and philosophy could be established in the country," the Congress leader said, pointing to the BJP's "links" with these outfits.
BJP-ruled Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh had become centres of mob lynching, he said, adding that such incidents would become a major threat to the nation's integrity.
Referring to the murder of a BJP worker in Kerala, he said the Governor there summoned the DGP on the issue, but nothing of that sort was done in other states where lynching incidents took place.
BJP members objected to Kharge citing incidents, saying many of the cases he was referring to were sub-judice.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar also objected to his reference to former President Pranab Mukherjee's speech, saying it was against rules.
Kumar said action had been taken against the hooliganism which had taken place in the name of cow protection.
Countering Kharge's onslaught against the government, BJP leader Hukumdev Narayan Yadav said, "Some people are indulging in terror (atankvadi) activities to defame the government."
He slammed the Congress for questioning the intention of the Modi government and asserted that the responsibility of containing mob violence is that of the state governments.
Yadav, the MP from Madhubani in Bihar, said a fight between two ideologies has been going on for several decades and said that those who follow the path of "economic development and nationalism" will come out victorious.
During his speech, he extensively quoted Deen Dayal Upadhyaya and said the BJP ideologue had stated that "Muslims in India are descendants of Hindus."
He said every Muslim must respect Hindu sentiment and at the same time, Hindus must respect the Muslims.
Talking about nationalism, Yadav said freedom fighters Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan had sung the poem 'Vande Mataram' but there is an environment now in which singing it is considered a crime.
While targeting the Opposition, the BJP MP drew the attention of the House towards the 1984 anti-Sikh riots after the assassination of Indira Gandhi and raised the issue of killing of RSS workers in Left-ruled Kerala.
Sougata Roy of Trinamool Congress quoted the findings of a magazine to say that between 2010-2017 there were 63 incidents of mob violence in the name of cow protection.
He demanded a separate law -- "Manav Suraksha Kanoon"
(human protection law) -- to deal with incidents of lynching, arguing that the Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Penal Code do not define lynching.
"The government keeps saying it wants Congress-free India, I want to ask, do you want to make a Muslim-free India as well," Roy said, provoking protests from BJP members.
Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju objected to Roy's remarks, saying that TMC MP should not mislead the House and should specify on what basis he is giving the data.
Roy said that cow-related killings are all "targeted killings" and accused workers of VHP, Bajrang Dal and local cow vigilantes of leading the mob violence.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar and S S Ahluwalia objected to the use of a word by Roy which was immediately expunged by Deputy Speaker M Thambi Durai.
Heated exchanges also broke out between Ahluwalia and BJP MPs on one side and Kalyan Banerjee and other TMC MPs on the other.
Roy sarcastically also remarked that a missing case has been registered in Darjeeling against a BJP MP, an apparent reference to Ahluwalia who represents the Lok Sabha seat.
Ahluwalia responded by saying, "I am standing right in front of you.... How can I be missing?
Roy referred to the killing of Mohammad Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan and Junaid Khan and said it took a long time for the state and central governments to condemn such lynching incidents.
He maintained that the Prime Minister has made "just two statements" -- one in 2016 and the other a few days ago -- and asked, "Why did it take him so long?"
The Trinamool leader said "very few cases" of bovine related cases occur in the eastern India in Bengal and Odisha.
"Why is this not being controlled? Because top BJP leaders were shy of condemning it."
LJP leader and Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said the Opposition was attacking the Modi government for the responsibilities to be fulfilled by the states.
To opposition demand of bringing in a new law to deal with lynchings, Paswan said even such a law will have to be implemented by the states.
"Do you want the Centre to intervene whenever states do not fulfil their responsibilities?.... Should the Centre send Army to handle the situation," he asked the Opposition.
He said while Modi has condemned such incidents, the then Prime Minister (Rajiv Gandhi) during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots had remarked: "when a big tree falls, the earth does shake".
He said in the past three years, Modi has not spoken on Ram Janmabhoomi or Uniform Civil Code or Babri Masjid or Article 370.
Paswan suggested that at the end of this discussion, the House should together condemn such lynching incidents and appeal all political parties and chief ministers to investigate such cases within 24 hours and a murder case should be lodged against the guilty.
Attacking the main opposition party, he quipped, "The Congress party has one leg in the grave."
He said the Congress party has only the cow vigilantism issue to raise as the NDA government has got rid of corruption and focussed on development.
Kharge said the discussion is about what has happened under the present government and answers should be given for that rather than talk about 1984 issues which the House had already discussed.
BJD leader Tathagata Satpathy said every Indian is precious and if it is not, then "we are criminals".
He said the rural economy is getting damaged by incidents of lynching as an economic cycle has been stopped.
"By lynching movement... you will eventually kill Hindu farmers," Satpathy said.
Elaborating, he said Hindu farmers sell the cows and bullocks when they become useless whereas now the buyers have stopped going to villages.
The BJD leader suggested that each MP should take care of two pairs of bullocks and said he tells farmers in his constituency that they can take their cows and bullocks to houses of BJP workers.
"We shall remain united for India, not for someone's idea of unification," he said.
Samajwadi patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav said discrimination is happening on various grounds, religion, caste, language and region, and wanted it to end.
The atrocities committed against women, especially against wives in families, should be stopped, he said.
In a lighter vein, the veteran leader wondered how many of the Parliamentarians are suppressing their wives, eliciting laughter from the members present in the House.
K Gopal (AIADMK) said the beef issue has become a polarising subject and emphasised that it is everybody's collective responsibility to ensure harmony in the society.
There should not be any discrimination against SC/ST people, he added.