Ugly scenes were witnessed in the Upper House when the House began a discussion on farmers’ protest against new reform laws
After Opposition MPs in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday climbed on officials’ tables, waved black cloths and threw files when the House began a discussion on the farmers’ protest, M Venkaiah Naidu on Wednesday said he couldn’t sleep because of the sacrilege in the “temple of democracy”.
Referring to Tuesday’s events, the Rajya Sabha Chairman said he struggled to find a provocation or reason for the low in the “august House”.
What Naidu said:
- Parliament, the apex legislature of the country is regarded as the “temple of democracy”, he said.
- The table area where the officers and reporters of the House, the secretary general and the presiding officer are seated is considered the holy sanctum sanctorum of the House, an emotional Naidu said as the Rajya Sabha assembled for the day.
- “I rise in deep anguish to place on record the way this august House is being subjected to sacrilege and that too propelled by a sense of competition among some sections of the House since the commencement of this monsoon session,” the Rajya Sabha chairman said.
- In temples, devotees are allowed only up to the sanctum sanctorum and not beyond, he said, adding that entering the area is itself an act of sacrilege.
- “I am distressed by the way this sacredness has been destroyed yesterday. “I have no words to convey my anguish and to condemn such acts. As I spent a sleepless night last night, I struggled to find the provocation or reason for forcing this august House to hit such a low yesterday,” he said.
- “I find it difficult to understand as to how the way the subject was listed in the List of Business for yesterday would have prevented any member to raise any issue concerning the farm sector, including the three farm Bills that some members were keen to raise in the House and even demanding their withdrawal,” Naidu said.
- Tuesday, he added, was a golden opportunity for members to have gone on record with their positions on all issues relating to the plight of the famers. But it was not to be as the sole intention seemed to be to not allow the House to function.
- Naidu also expressed his concern at some MPs shooting the “sad moments of sacrilege” in the House and posting them on social media. While doing so, they only ended up showing to the people the extent to which the House could degenerate to due to the new found competitive and aggressive disruption by some sections, he said.
- “It was very sad indeed. I am deeply anguished and so must be the nation and well wishers of our parliamentary democracy,” Naidu observed.
- As chairman of the House, Naudi said he was “scared to visualise the implications and consequences of such competitive acts of sacrilege in our temple of democracy”.
- Naidu asked the members to seriously reflect on what happened on Tuesday and explore remedies if any. “Failure to do so would certainly render our parliamentary democracy irrelevant,” he added.
- “I would like to remind all of you that we begin to celebrate the 75th year of our independence in a few days from now. The choice before each one of you is very clear. It is either to be the best parliamentarian or the worst disruptor,” he added.
- Naidu also said that “some people” had complained that Rajya Sabha TV did not broadcast what happened in the House on Tuesday.
- “I don’t know why Rajya Sabha TV not showing. This also can be shown. I have no problem,” he said.
What they said
Union minister Anurag Thakur, speaking to Hindustan Times, slammed the Congress for lowering the dignity of the House with their unruly conduct. “A party which has not been able to choose a new president, whose MPs tear the legislations of their own party and doesn’t allow Parliament to function by indulging in condemnable behaviour shows that the democracy was shamed. People have elected these MPs to discuss issues in Parliament, but they have stooped to tearing papers and throwing files,” said Thakur.
ANI quoted agriculture minister Tomar as saying, “Demand for a discussion on agriculture was accepted in Rajya Sabha. As soon as it began, Congress, AAP & TMC adopted an undemocratic attitude. Congress is not able to digest the fact that farmers are prospering with the new govt policies.”
“The attitude of Congress and TMC during the discussion in Rajya Sabha has dealt a major blow to democracy and proves that there is nothing black in the new farm laws. Black can only be seen in the clothes of Opposition leaders,” he added.
Congress member Pratap Singh Bajwa told NDTV: “MPs who threw the rule book towards the Chair wanted that the Chair must follow the rulebook in ĺetter and spirit.”
Refusing to apologise for his behaviour, Bajwa further told Times Now: “I will do it 100 times if the government does not give us an opportunity to discuss the three black anti-agriculture laws. BJP cannot browbeat the farmers of India.”
“We had no other option as the government was disallowing our notice seeking a discussion on the repeal of the three farm laws. I have not committed any crime by raising farmers’ concerns and have no regrets,” he added.
Congress MP Jairam Ramesh tweeted:
Presiding officers in Parliament are supposed to be neutral umpires, not partisan players. They cannot present a totally one-sided picture of goings on in the House and further aggravate the situation. Misplaced emotion leads to commotion.
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) August 11, 2021
What happened in the RS on Tuesday?
Ugly scenes were witnessed in the Upper House when the House began a discussion on farmers’ protest against new reform laws. Several MPs stood on the table where the parliamentary staff sits right below the chair, while others crowded around it shouting anti-government slogans.
A few members squatted on the tables for over one-and-half hours during which proceedings were adjourned multiple times. No sooner had a discussion on the farmers’ issues been called, MPs belonging to Opposition parties including the Congress and the TMC trooped into the Well shouting slogans seeking withdrawal of the controversial farm reform legislations.
As vice-Chairman Bhubaneswar Kalita called members to speak on the issue, Sanjay Singh of AAP climbed on the table right below the presiding officer’s chair and starting chanting slogans against the farm laws. This forced Kalita to briefly adjourn the proceedings. As the House marshals brought Singh down from the table, Congress’ Pratap Singh Bajwa climbed the table, shouted slogans and then hurled a file at the Chair. Ripun Bora of his party too was seen standing on the table for some time.
All this happened during the adjournment period. Sloganeering by the Opposition and counter-sloganeering by BJP MPs continued inside the House even after the short adjournment. While TMC and DMK members came wearing black shirts, kurtas and sarees, Congress members were seen sporting black ribbon bands. Some wore black Nehru jackets, black shawls and even black masks.
When the House re-assembled, Singh was back on the table and this time he was joined by Binoy Visman of CPI, CPM’s V Sivadasan, Congress’ Deepender Hooda, Ripun Bora and Rajamani Patel, DMK’s M Shanmugham and Mausam Noor of TMC, leading to another adjournment for 30 minutes. An MP waved a black cloth as pandemonium prevailed.
While Rajya Sabha television did not show the scenes of ruckus, Opposition MPs recorded the events and posted them on their Twitter handles. When the House reassembled, Kalita announced that Deputy Chairman Harivansh has invited all floor leaders for a meeting, but the opposition persisted with its protest, forcing another adjournment.
As the ruckus continued when the House met again, the proceedings were adjourned for the day. Outside the House, Bajwa said he had to climb on the table to highlight the “anti-farmer policies” of the Modi government and that he was willing to face any punishment including suspension.
He said the Congress will continue with its protests against the “anti-farmer laws”. When Kalita announced a discussion on farmers’ issues soon after the House assembled after a pre-lunch adjournment, Congress chief whip Jairam Ramesh cited a ruling by the Chair in 2015 and said his notice for calling attention motion has been converted into short duration discussion without taking the sense of the House.
This, he said, was a unilateral decision. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi countered him saying it has never happened but was willing to go for a sense of the House if that was required.
Kalita said Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu had admitted a short duration discussion and fixed a time for it. He then called the first speaker, Vijay Pal Singh Tomar of the BJP, to speak. This prompted opposition MPs to rush into the Well of the House shouting slogans.
The Monsoon Session of the Parliament has seen opposition MPs stall proceedings demanding discussions on the Peagus snooping issue as well as on farmers’ agitation and price rise. Six TMC MPs were suspended for the day earlier this month for carrying placards into the Well while one was suspended for the whole session for snatching papers from IT and Telecom Ministers and tearing it up.
Last September, Rajya Sabha had witnessed unruly behaviour by opposition members during the passage of the contentious farm bills with MPs throwing the rule book at the chair, breaking microphones and launching paper missiles. Eight MPs were suspended for the remainder of the session then.
With inputs from PTI