NEW DELHI: A verbal duel ensued again between HRD Minister Smriti Irani and BSP supremo Mayawati on Friday over the demand for the inclusion of a Dalit in the judicial commission to probe Rohith Vemula’s suicide, with the latter charging the government with protecting the accused.
Though Irani appeared calm, she vehemently denied the charges and accused Mayawati of playing vote-bank politics. Joining the opposition protest, CPI-M MP Sitaram Yechury took on the minister, alleging that she had tried to “demean” Parliament by “fabricating” facts. Mayawati slammed the government for appointing a one-man judicial Commission of former Allahabad High Court judge Ashok Kumar Roopanwal.
“To my question whether a Dalit member is part of the Commission, the government has not answered this so far. On February 24, I had asked this question and it has not been answered so far. Justice Roopanwal is from the upper caste. Government’s intention is dubious on this,” Mayawati said and asked Irani if she would follow through on her two-day-old promise to “chop off” her head if she was unsatisfied with her reply.
Replying to Mayawati’s questions on Vemula not getting fellowship payments, Irani said the Dalit scholar’s last fellowship payment was stopped as he was asked to file some documents. Irani termed as “baseless” the allegations that no one from the Scheduled Caste was a member of the Hyderabad Central University’s Proctorial Board. Irani said Vemula’s mother had spoken to her and sought a judicial inquiry and she had assured her that the government had set up a judicial commission. Irani said Justice Roopanwal was a judge of the Allahabad High Court, which was in a state of which Mayawati was once the CM and that he was a noted jurist.
Yechury took on Irani for quoting Facebook posts purportedly written by Vemula which were critical of the CPI(M) leader and accused her of making all foul fair. “Can a Facebook account be authenticated?... Can ‘quotes’ from the ‘cyberspace’ be permitted without the same being authenticated,” he asked and insisted that nothing should go on record in the House without being authenticated.
At this, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley interjected, saying “every word” read out by Irani has been authenticated by the registrar of the university. Deputy Chairman P J Kurien assured Yechury that he would look into the documents and check their authenticity. Yechury also took umbrage to Irani’s remarks about Mahishasura and Goddess Durga. “Who is a good Hindu, who is a bad Hindu, will they give certificates?” Yechury asked, reminding the House of the significance of Onam celebrated in Kerala. Earlier, the Opposition sought an apology from Irani for reading out in the Rajya Sabha “objectionable” comments even as she defended herself saying she was asked for proof of her statements against JNU students.
Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said there had been a tradition that nothing blasphemous or against any community would be raised in the House.
Did Atal call indira ‘durga’?
CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said Friday that former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had called his political rival and the then PM Indira Gandhi “Durga” after the 1971 war. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley intervened and asked Yechury on what basis he had made this statement and challenged him to substantiate the same. Yechury replied he relied on House records. But it appears Vajpayee never said so. The former PM, in a TV interview available on Youtube, can be heard clarifying he never described Gandhi as ‘Durga’ but that the media had wrongly attributed it to him. Appearing in Aap Ki Adalat on India TV, he had said: “I never described her as Durga but newspapers wrongly attributed it to me. I clarified it many a time that I have not said it but they reiterated that it was I who said it.” As per the video, Vajpayee said, “People started probing into it and Pupul Jayakar, who was writing a book on Indira Gandhi, wanted to mention that I have described Indira as Durga... she came to me asking the same question... I told her that I never referred to Indira as Durga and it was wrongly printed in my name. Then she started looking into library and debate archives but couldn’t find it.”