NEW DELHI: For the second straight day, HRD Minister Smriti Irani today made a strong defence of the government's actions with regard to JNU issue and suicide of Dalit student in Hyderabad University in the face of intense attack by the opposition which alleged that attempts were being made to suppress dissent.
Irani, who was ballistic in the Lok Sabha yesterday, was comparatively mellowed down in the Rajya Sabha today as she replied to questions raised on her performance as also that of the HRD ministry under her. She said she had been "rightly" advised by someone to be calm.
Her reply to a short duration discussion, however, was cut short as the House was abruptly adjourned after uproar over her certain comments which she made while alleging that some elements in JNU had published derogatory pamphlets about Goddess Durga.
As she narrated the descriptive details of the pamphlets, Anand Sharma of Congress took objection, saying it could set a precedent and in future somebody else could repeat it with regard to Gods of other religions.
"What is happening here? This is too much. It's a dangerous precedent. Every religious leader and deity has been derogatorily referred by some persons. Will all this be discussed here? Can we allow it here. Then there will be a war in the House," Sharma said.
Irani insisted with her reference, saying it was imperative to counter the charge levelled against her. Responding to objections, Deputy Chairman P K Kurian said she has authenticated what she had said. "What can I do?" he said.
With the opposition remaining unrelenting, he adjourned the House till tomorrow.
Earlier, the HRD Minister contended that JNU row as well Vemula's suicide were being projected wrongly to target her, and quoted Macbeth, saying "fair is foul, foul is fair". She also rejected the charge of saffronisation of education and to buttress her point, she cited the case of wife of a Left MP appointed by the NDA government as an ICHR member.
She also hit back at Congress, saying its government had appointed a former NSUI president as Haryana Central Univeristy Vice Chancellor.
Irani also referred to other political appointments by the previous government to make her point.
To Congress' criticism of her action against certain vice-chancellors, she said Vishwa Bharti University VC was removed by the President after an inquiry indicted him on charge of sexual misconduct.
She recalled that TMC as well as Left members had written to her demanding action against him.
"For you to say I am 'sanghi' (RSS member) with horns on my head removed them is wrong," she said while also defending scrapping of the DU's Four Year Undergraduate Programme.
She also took a dig at Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) over his attack on her on Rohith Vemula's suicide in Hyderabad Central Univeristy. Irani read from Vemula's Facebook posts in which he criticised the Left over absence of dalits from its leadership.
"Yechury sees his party as a private agency. He is waiting for this amendment to be made to convince his party to taker dalits into leadership," she quoted from his post, which he had written in response to Yechury's call for quota in private sector.
She also rejected the charge that police had never entered JNU before the recent row, saying in 2009, during UPA rule, police had entered the campus and lath-charged students.
With regard to the row over anti-national slogans, she said a JNU report had named the accused students.
Narendra Kumar Kashyap (BSP) demanded that the government should include a dalit member in the judicial committee probing suicide of Vemula.
He also demanded that the government should bring six students to the book for allegedly causing Vemula's suicide.
Kashyap said the government has not assured safety and security of dalits even after 69 years of the country's independence.
Bhupinder Singh (BJD) said the conference on Afzal Guru in JNU was being conducted for last three years. "Why no action was taken earlier? Even IB had clue about it." Terming the two incidents that occurred in JNU and Hyderabad University as "institutionalised murder", D P Tripathi (NCP) said, "The whole atmosphere of hate has been created. It will not help. Reconciliation is need of the hour."
The government blundered by charging sedition against Kanhaiya Kumar, he said, and added, "The reason is that JNU, by and large, opposed communalism and fascism. The party (BJP) is using the incident to malign the institution."
Neither BJP nor the government has taken action against its MLA for attacking media and lawyers in Patiala Court premises recently, he added.
Sanjay Raut (SS) said, "If in JNU slogans were shouted in support of Afzal Guru, it is unfortunate. What was the need? The action need to be taken."
He also said that Pakistan had declared a young cricket supporter as "traitor" for unfurling Indian flag in its country. "Should not action be taken if students in JNU talk in support of Afzal Guru?" he questioned.
Ramdas Athavale of RPI (A) said Vemula's suicide is a serious issue and action needs to be taken against the perpetrators.
"If anti-India slogans have been raised in JNU then this should be seriously investigated. Nationalism should be respected. Action should be taken against those who raise such slogans," he added.
Athavale said "if a lesson needs to be taught to Pakistan, then India should attack it and free the parts of Jammu and Kashmir that it has captured."
V Hanumantha Rao (INC) said he had written to the Vice Chancellor of Hyderabad University about the hegemony of the RSS and ABVP activists in the university.
Tarun Vijay from the BJP said student groups in JNU were protesting against India at a time when the country was remembering the solders who had sacrificed their lives in Siachin.
He claimed that when Afzal Guru was hanged, these students has protested against the Court.
Vijay added that Jawaharlal Nehru had arrested Communist leaders during 1962 was against China, while he had allowed RSS to participate in the Republic Day parade.