The alleged force-feeding of a Muslim catering supervisor by Shiv Sena members of parliament in Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi seems to be nearing no closure. After two days of disruptive debate, the government has promised that it would first ascertain facts and then report to Parliament. The incident involving its members took place outside Parliament House on the premises of a building run by a state government and the presiding officers of both the houses of Parliament have asked the government to find out details.
But for the communal twist given to it, it would have been a simple case of MPs going a bit too far in expressing their dissatisfaction over the quality of food served in a state guest house by a PSU run by the central government. The furore the incident generated in the political class has been on expected lines. Unavoidably partisan in their views, the politicians are bound to raise the religion card and milk the point instead of waiting to verify facts. The Shiv Sena has denied any intention of hurting the catering supervisor’s religious sensitivities. Even if this is true, there can be no justification for lawmakers taking the law into their own hands. This is not the first time Shiv Sena politicians have displayed a proclivity to use strong-arm tactics to enforce compliance with their wishes and punish those who do not toe their line.
Given the anxieties that the BJP’s massive mandate could encourage displays of majoritarian triumphalism, it is crucial that the government publicly and visibly distance itself from the Sena’s action. However, naked display of power and crass conduct by elected representatives is not confined to any one party. In the current session itself, a member of the ruling BJP was seen walking into the well and threatening a colleague. There should be a code of conduct for them and those who violate it should face deterrent action, even risking termination of their membership and being disqualified for holding any public office for 10 years.