NEW DELHI: Sparks flew in the Lok Sabha today as the raging JNU row and suicide of Dalit student Rohith Vemula was taken up for discussion, with opposition accusing the government of muzzling the voice of the youth and "mercilessly crushing" the principles of democracy.
To counter the opposition onslaught, BJP targeted Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi for his "support" to those standing with hanged Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru and said the House has to decide if it stands with those who attacked Parliament or those who laid down their lives defending it.
The debate, on the first working day of Budget session, saw accusations and counter-accusations, with both ruling and opposition sides underlining their credentials as "nationalists". Initiating the debate, Congress' Chief Whip Jyotiraditya Scindia alleged "undue interference" by Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani and Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya in Vemula's case.
"Bandaru Dattaterya in his letter had called Rohith a castiest and an anti-national. Where in the world can you see a HRD minister writing five letters in any case," he said. Scindia also raised the issue of FTII, IIT Madras and JNU and said, "the government was trying to muzzle the voice of the youth."
Lambasting the government, Scindia attacked External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Tribal Affairs Minister Jual Oram and Irani for emphasising that Vemula was not a Dalit. Criticising the role of Hyderabad University administration, he said protests and fights are the part of academic institutions but in this case the Vice-Chancellor should have tackled this issue in a better way.
However, he instead suspended the Dalit students and compelled them to stay in an open tent because of the the "politics of the RSS and BJP," Scindia said. "What is the duty of the government? It is to protect the democratic institutions and work for the betterment of the people. But since last two years, with the atmosphere of intolerance, no one feels secured. It is mercilessly crushing the democratic principles," the Congress leader said.
"The Prime Minister speaks of demographic dividend of the youth. But what do we see in the country? In Madhya Pradesh, we see Vyapam in Madhya Pradesh, the problem of drugs in Punjab, the way the voice of students in FTII was muzzled. The government machinery is being misused and is trying to crush the voice of the dissident and those having the contrary view," he said.
He also questioned the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying "He tweets on every other thing, but it took five days for him to speak on this matter, only after a worldwide uproar. There is no reference on in the Mann Ki Baat."
Scindia said while the government was celebrating 125th century of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, it was not following its path. "There is huge gap between the talk and the act of the government."