NEW DELHI: CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury today castigated the BJP for trying to suppress dissent and impose their idea of a "theocratic, fascistic Hindu Rashtra" on the country and asked the government to "stop interfering" in universities which have been set up under central laws.
Amid a raging controversy over suicide by a Dalit student and arrests in JNU, he also demanded the setting up of a House Committee to examine the latest developments in various central universities, while initiating the debate in Rajya Sabha on the situation arising in the central institutions of higher learning, including JNU and Hyderabad University.
Yechury said an effort was being made to metamorphosise India, a secular democratic republic, into a "theocratic, fascistic Hindu Rashtra".
"Please do not castigate the entire student community and the institutions," and "stop this tirade for advancing your brand of nationalism", he said and termed the government's "interference" in some univerisities as "illegal".
Seeking stern action against all anti-national activities, Yechury said the government was trying to suppress dissent and asked it not to castigate the entire student community and the institutions.
Observing that the ruling dispensation was seeking to impose its idea of "narrow nationalism" as against the concept of nationalism defined by a range of people from Emperor Ashoka to Rabindranath Tagore and Mahatma Gandhi, Yechury said "this is a serious matter" and wanted to know if opposition to the government could be called "anti-national".
Maintaining that all central universities have been set up under central laws, he sought the setting up of a House Panel to examine the latest developments like "interference" by the Centre in them, while referring to letters written by HRD Minister Smriti Irani to the Hyderabad University.
Referring to Rohith Vemula, the Dalit student of Hyderabad University, he said stopping of his scholarship led to a situation being created for him to commit suicide.
He said such interference was not only limited to the JNU or Hyderabad University, but could be seen in other insitutions also in different parts of the country and "today you are castigating the entire university as anti-national."
Yechury demanded that the House Committee should "go into what is happening in all central universities" and quoted Jawaharlal Nehru to say that universities were places where debate on all ideas should flourish.
On JNU and the speech by its students union president Kanhaiya Kumar, he said "I too want aazadi (freedom). I want freedom from hunger, Manuwad (ancient religious laws) and poverty .... You arrest me if you want to for that, but stop conspiring against our children."
Yechury, an alumnus of JNU, said the university has produced outstanding students who have excelled in all fields.
He also took a jibe at Home Minister Rajnath Singh saying being the Minister he was the repository of all intelligence inputs but, he used "a parody tweet" of terrorist Hafeez Sayeed to attack the JNU students.
On the government's plans to hoist national flags in all universities, he said "the tri-colour in our heart is much larger than any national flag... we don't want certificates of patriotism from those who killed Mahatma Gandhi".
He also attacked the government and the police for inaction when attacks were mounted on the Kanhaiya Kumar and journalists by a group of lawyers in Patiala House Court. He also demanded removal of sedition charges against Kumar.
On Left parties being called a 'witch' by a BJP MP, Yechury said "yes, we are witches. We forewarn. Understand the prophesy of witches", and quoted Shakespeare's play Macbeth in which the witches speak of the upcoming doom for the rulers.
Participating in the debate Bhupender Yadav (BJP) questioned whether the JNU incident reflected "freedom of speech" or "speech for freedom" and sought to know how students distributed pamphlets on Kashmir.
"Anti-national activities cannot be allowed in the JNU campus in the name of freedom of speech," he said, prompting Yechury to ask who were those who raised such slogans or distributed pamphlets.
"Universities form future generation...we cannot allow anyone to plant seeds to divide the nation there," he said.
Amid protests by Congress leader Anand Sharma who asked Yadav to authenticate the pamphlets and posters he was displaying in the House as per rules, Leader of the House Arun Jaitley said his party colleague (Yadav) will do so.
Jaitley also accused the Opposition of being "intolerant" for not allowing Yadav to put forth the "alternative point of view", saying "why should this level of intolerance be allowed on alternate view point."
Yadav then continued his speech saying Indian culture showed respect and was tolerant towards all "whether it was 'Rishi Charvak' or 'Jainism'".
"But if a cultural event aimed at dividing the nation is organised in JNU, the administration has every right to interfere," he said and added slogans were raised in favour of Afzal Guru and Maqbool Bhat talking of judicial killing.
He attacked the Left parties saying they were instrumental in Mahishasur worship in JNU and sought votes in West Bengal's Durga Puja pandals. Reacting to this, Yechury said it was BJP which joined hands with PDP.
Yadav also hit out at the CPI(M) asking why its Politburo had no representation from ST or OBCs and how many faculty members of JNU were Dalits/OBCs or STs. He also said the government did not want to close down JNU but wanted to protect its dignity. The discussion will continue.