Activists of the Youth Congress shout slogans against the government during a protest against intolerance in New Delhi yesterday.
India should act “firmly” against intolerance, a federal minister and senior ruling party member said yesterday, as the government faced criticism for its alleged failure to stop incidents of violence between communities.
Critics of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government say it has also failed to take adequate action against comments by party members suggesting an intolerance towards minority communities, especially Muslims.
“There is some amount of intolerance in society, in different areas,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu said.
“That has to be identified, it has to be localised and it has to be dealt (with) firmly,” Naidu said during a debate in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house.
Opposition parties constantly raising the issue of intolerance have shown India in a poor light, Naidu added.
Over the past months, dozens of writers and artistes have returned state awards to protest the killings of rationalist writers allegedly by Hindu radicals, and the lynching of a Muslim man for reportedly eating beef.
Naidu said similar incidents had occurred even before BJP leader Narendra Modi became prime minister.
Intolerance existed in many countries, Naidu said. “In the US one fellow belonging to one race shot down nine people mercilessly on the basis of the colour of their skin,” apparently referring to the shooting of nine black churchgoers in Charlestone in June.
“Some people are making out of turn statements, meaningless statements, we have to condemn it, we have to isolate them ... disown them,” Naidu said, without mentioning any names.
Meanwhile, the Lok Sabha witnessed repeated adjournments yesterday as differences between some members of the opposition and the ruling coalition erupted when a Communist Party of India (Marxist) member attributed some remarks to Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
CPM leader Mohamed Salim, who initiated a discussion in the lower house on the issue of intolerance, referred to an article in a magazine which quoted the home minister as saying India had the “first Hindu ruler after 800 years” after Modi came to power.
The ruling National Democratic Alliance members reacted sharply.
While denying ever making such remarks, Singh said he was deeply hurt by the claim.
“I am (have) never been so much hurt in my parliamentary life. If a home minister makes such comments, he has no right to be in his post,” Singh said, adding that members of the house and people from the minority community know that he would not make such remarks.
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said Salim’s remarks pertaining to the magazine report on the minister would not go on record and she would examine the issue.
“I will give my ruling,” she said.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy said Salim should withdraw the comments till their authenticity was established.
Rudy said it would be difficult for members on the treasury benches to sit in the house after allegations “which are dangerous for the country”.
Salim, however, said he would not withdraw his remarks. “This is also intolerance. This is ridiculous,” he said.
Salim said he cited the magazine after questions were put to him about his remarks.
As the standoff persisted, Deputy Speaker M Thambidurai briefly adjourned the house.
When the house reassembled after its second adjournment of the day, Congress member M Veerapa Moily said since both Salim and Rajnath Singh had spoken, the matter should be put to rest.
But the stalemate persisted and the house was adjourned till 3.15pm and then again till 4pm.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Youth Congress activists protested yesterday over the issue of intolerance in the country. Several of them were detained while heading towards the Parliament House, police said.
The Youth Congress activists had gathered outside the Parliament Street police station raising the issue of intolerance. They tried to cross the barriers put up there to prevent them from marching towards the Parliament House.
Police used water cannons to disperse the protesters.
“The activists were protesting without permission and they were trying to march towards the Parliament House. Several of them were detained and taken to the Parliament Street police station,” a police official said.
Police released the protesters later in the evening.
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