The opposition parties on Wednesday took on the government on the issue of social activist Anna Hazare’s arrest, insisting that the right to protest could not be curtailed in a democracy.
The parties, ranging from the BJP to the Left, attacked the government for what they termed its efforts to stifle the voices of dissent, saying this could not be explained under the guise of Parliament’s sovereignty to make bills.
Responding to the Prime Minister’s statement in the Rajya Sabha, leader of the opposition, Arun Jaitley said civil society had the right to put its views across and unreasonable restrictions cannot be put on them.
“Is the Congress party willing to give a guarantee that they will not hold a protest having more than 5,000 people in future or would limit the number of vehicles to less than 50?’, an angry Jaitley asked.
“Do you even recollect from British regime when these kinds of restrictions were imposed on freedom fighters and Gandhiji... you cannot impose such unnecessary conditions,” Jaitley said.
In the Lok Sabha, leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj said protection of civil rights was one of the most important principles in a democratic country and the opposition parties, which are for supremacy of Parliament as also the judiciary, would continue to fight for it.
“The government is shifting the responsibility from its shoulders to that of the Delhi Police Commissioner. Who is running this government?’ she asked.
Swaraj said while the police failed to act against separatists, they are quick to repress sadhus (Ramdev) and Gandhians (Hazare). Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav said even the British government did not place such checks on the movements of Mahatma Gandhi.
CP(M) leader Basudeb Acharia had a similar line: “Government is intolerant where there is agitation against corruption. The situation did not warrant arrest of Anna Hazare. Government cannot take away right of the people granted by the Constitution to protest against any decision,” he said.
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav too decried the government’s act as unconstitutional, urging it to apologise.