Parliament witnessed chaos on Wednesday over a report that Shiv Sena MPs allegedly forced a fasting Muslim worker to eat in the new Maharashtra Sadan, but the government dismissed the allegations as "unsubstantiated" and said they need to be verified lest they raise communal passions.
Delhi police barricade the entry to Mahrashtra Sadan where around 11 members of Parliament from Maharashtra belonging to the Shiv Sena allegedly forced a Muslim catering supervisor to break his fast last week at Maharashtra Sadan in in New Delhi. (Photo by Raj K Raj/ Hindustan Times)
The Indian Express reported that a group of around 11 Shiv Sena MPs, apparently angry over not being served Maharashtrian food, allegedly forced the Muslim catering supervisor, who was fasting for Ramzan, to eat a chapati at the new Maharashtra Sadan last week.
Read: Maharashtra Sadan incident an attempt to silence Shiv Sena's voice: Uddhav
The issue was raised in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha by opposition members who demanded action against the Sena MPs who vociferously denied the reports.
After the uproar by opposition, both Houses of Parliament witnessed brief adjournments as agitated members wanted to raise the issue which was staunchly opposed by the Sena.
As soon as Lok Sabha assembled for the day, several Opposition members raised the issue and termed it as violation of religious beliefs.
Read: 'I'm sorry if religious sentiments are hurt'
Members from Congress, Rashritya Janata Dal (RJD), Trinamool Congress and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) were on their feet raising the issue.
People's Democratic Party (PDP) members too were seen waiving a paper but could not be heard in the din.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the House when the issue was raised.
It also saw a storm as a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member Ramesh Biduri rushed to the Well telling some in the opposition that "this is India. Those... go out".
Read: Shiv Sena MPs ‘force’ fasting Muslim staffer at Maharashtra Sadan to eat chapati: report
The member later apologised after parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu disapproved his conduct.
"We are dealing with a sensitive issue... Don't try to raise communal passions. Nobody knows the truth. Whether the incident has happened or not, we are not sure," Naidu said seeking to douse flared passions.
He said there is "need for maintaining decency and decorum of the House... We should respect each other".
He said the the government is in no way connected with the "unsavoury" incident.
"We need to inquire... Let us not send wrong signals to the country."
Video shows Shiv Sena MP forcefully feeding fasting Muslim staffer
Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge wanted the issue to be referred to the Ethics Committee.
After the storm over Biduri's remarks, RJD member Pappu Yadav and AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi rushed into the Well.
Shiv Sena members also rushed towards the Well but stopped in the aisle as some BJP members, including Kirit Somaiya, were seen pacifying them.
Lok Sabha was then adjourned briefly.
Lok Sabha also witnessed a walkout by the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Left parties, PDP and AIMIM.
Raising the issue during Zero Hour, Congress member MI Shanavas described the incident as "shocking" and said it is "cutting at the root of secularism. MPs who should be role models have become bad models... The faith of minorities has been tarnished. The House should condemn it."
He also quoted reported statements made by the concerned employee Arshad.
Defending the Shiv Sena MPs, Union minister Anant Geete said, "Those who want to respect the month of Ramzan should not make false statement in the House" triggering sharp protests from the Opposition.
"Whatever the report has appeared is totally false and Congress is trying to tarnish the image of the Narendra Modi government," Geete said.
Geete said Shiv Sena MPs staying at the new Maharashtra Sadan had gone to meet the resident commissioner to lodge their complaint against mismanagement there, but they could not meet him.
In Rajya Sabha, minister of state for parliamentary affairs Prakash Javadekar said "It is an unsubstantiated report. We should not take it to the next level. Let it be ascertained. There are sensitivities involved."
Ali Anwar Ansari of the Janata Dal (United) raised the issue after Zero Hour but deputy chairman PJ Kurien said he will allow him to speak only after those who have given notices for mentions have spoken.
Ansari was supported by Congress members and as he rushed to the Well amid sharp exchanges between Treasury benches and opposition, Kurien adjourned the House for 10 minutes.
Later, Ansari said the incident is an insult to the Constitution which respects all religions and demanded action against the MPs.
"Forcing roti into the mouth of a person observing fast is against the dignity of a person," he said.
As the uproar continued, Kurien said "It has to be ascertained whether it is fact or not. Government has assured that it will ascertain the issue and then come back to the House. Whatever the action to be taken under the law, the government will take after that."