NEW DELHI: HRD Minister Smriti Irani, for the second consecutive day, took on the united Opposition over the JNU row and Rohith Vemula’s suicide. As Irani was engaged in a war of words with Opposition members, Deputy Chairman P J Kurien had to adjourn the House for the day on Thursday.
There was an uproar in the Upper House as Irani mentioned the Durga-Mahishasura issue. To buttress her case about “anti-national” activities on the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus, Irani had on Wednesday cited an event to observe “Mahishasura Martyrdom Day” in which goddess Durga was depicted in a “derogatory manner”.
“Why is the minister repeating what all is written in the Durga Mahishasura pamphlet? What are we reducing the debate to?” Congress leader Anand Sharma asked.
While replying to the debate, Irani also read out from research Dalit scholar Vemula’s Facebook post as she countered the Opposition’s onslaught over the issue regarding the university of Hyderabad and the JNU sedition row. In fact, hitting out CPMleader Sitaram Yechuri, who accused the BJP of trying to suppress dissent and impose their idea of a “theocratic, fascistic Hindu Rashtra”, Irani said, “When was the last time CPM talked about something and achieved it at national level.”
Earlier, participating the debate, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said “hate speech can never be free speech”, rejecting allegations that the government was cracking down on students because it didn’t agree with their views. “Vandalism is condemnable but sedition is free speech? Vandalism is terrible but in the name of academic freedom how can hate speech become freedom of expression?” he said.
Jaitley also defended the police entry into JNU, arguing that the campus was not a “sovereign territory” like some foreign embassy.He contended that the developments of February 9 on JNU were “much more serious” as he read out the pamphlets carrying “anti-India” material which were circulated on the campus. “The core question is, are we going to give respectability to those whose primary ideology is that they want to break this country,”
Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad questioned whether action should not be taken against media organisations which had run videos which were apparently misleading. Asserting that his party was for punishing the guilty, he said it appeared that somebody had shouted slogans but videos appeared to be implicating someone else.
BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu told reporters, “This is the greatest sign of intolerance. You make charges but you don’t reply.”
Meanwhile, JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar was sent to police custody for one day by the High Court, after which he was moved to an undisclosed location for interrogation.
UNIVs to up anti-bias vigil
In wake of the outrage over the suicide of Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula, Vice-Chancellors of all Central universities have agreed to appoint an anti-discrimination officer. And the HRD Ministry has asked the V-Cs to put a proper system in place to ensure that the students from these categories don’t have to endure any hardship.
Worst child death rate
Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi said India had the highest child mortality rate among Saarc countries with 48 deaths reported per 1,000 births. The minister also said the country was likely to miss the target of reducing Under-Five Mortality Rate by two-thirds, though “narrowly”.
India tops accident list
Road Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari said more people were killed in road accidents in India than anywhere else. The national toll averages at 1.3 lakh people in five lakh accidents every year. Drivers’ fault, poor condition of vehicles, pedestrians’ fault and weather are the main reasons, according to the Union minister.
445 indians in pak prisons
Around 445 Indians, most of them fishermen, are currently lodged in jails in Pakistan, MoS for External Affairs VK Singh said. He said 392 Indian fishermen and 53 other civilian prisoners were currently in Pakistan’s custody, adding that the government regularly took up with Islamabad the issue of their early release and repatriation.