Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday slammed the Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan over a discussion on rising cases of communal violence in the country and said the Modi government does not allow discussion in Parliament where "only one man's voice is heard."
An aggressive Gandhi joined protesting members of Parliament in the Well of the House as they demanded a debate on the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill.
"We are not being allowed to speak in Parliament. We are asking for discussion. There is a mentality in the government that discussion is not acceptable. Everybody feels it, their party feels it, we feel it, everybody feels it," Gandhi told reporters outside Parliament.
"There is a mood in Parliament that only one man's voice counts for anything in this country," he said after Congress members stormed the Well of the House demanding a discussion on growing incidents of communal tension.
"We are raising a point, we are asking for discussion... The Speaker, I mean...It is completely one-sided, partiality. That's what we are raising," Gandhi said.
Reacting to a reporter's comment that he was raising his voice for the first time and leading from the front, Gandhi said, "I have raised my voice many times in Parliament."
Lok Sabha was adjourned till 12pm on Wednesday following a ruckus created by the opposition parties over communal riots in Uttar Pradesh.
Raising slogans and demanding the introduction of the bill against communal violence, the Congress sought a debate on the issue.
Amid the din, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan adjourned the House.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) countered Gandhi's charges and called his comments unparliamentary.
BJP's Rajiv Pratap Rudy said Gandhi calling the speaker "partial" is uncalled for, unparliamentary and "shows his frustration".
Earlier, Congress gave a notice of an adjournment motion in Lok Sabha over rising incidents of communal violence in the country.
Only one man's voice seems to count: Rahul Gandhi
The notice was given by Congress leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, party MP MI Shahnawaz and party whip KC Venugopal, party sources said.
'A recipe for disaster'
The BJP as well as several other parties had opposed the bill when the UPA government tried to push it in Parliament saying it is a "threat to India’s communal harmony" and the Congress-led regime was forced to drop it in February 2014.
In a letter to the then prime minister Manmohan Singh in December 2013, Modi - who was at loggerheads with the UPA government when he was the Gujarat chief minister - had said the communal violence bill was a "recipe for disaster".
Terming the bill as an attempt to encroach upon the domain of states, Modi had sought wider consultations among various stakeholders, such as state governments, political parties, police and security agencies, before making any move on the issue.
"Communal Violence Bill is ill-conceived, poorly drafted and a recipe for disaster," Modi had said in his letter.
He had said it would further divide people on religious and linguistic lines, writing that "religious and linguistic identities would become more reinforced and even ordinary incidents of violence would be given a communal colour thus giving the opposite result of what the bill intends to achieve".
He also brought out various “operational issues” in the proposed Prevention of Communal Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2013.
He had also said it showed no consideration for the nation’s federal structure.
The anti-communal violence bill and the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) were dropped from the Union home ministry's blueprint for the new government.
The bill was first introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2005 and subsequently referred to the department—related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs.
The committee submitted its report in 2006 to Parliament and notices were given in March 2007, December 2008, February 2009, December 2009 and again in February 2010 in Rajya Sabha for consideration and passing of the bill.
The bill, however, could not be taken up for consideration on any of these occasions.
Thereafter, several suggestions from civil society groups were received and examined. Finally, the NAC said in July 2010 that there was a need to revise the law to deal with communal violence. It worked on a draft bill and submitted it on July 25, 2011 to the home ministry.
Officials in the Union home ministry and the law ministry reportedly had objected to certain clauses of the draft bill, including responsibility of bureaucrats if communal violence erupts, saying they would come in the way of performing normal duties.
The bill also proposed constitution of a body -- National Authority for Communal Harmony, Justice and Reparation -- by the Centre to exercise the powers and perform the functions assigned to it under this Act.
Rising case of communal violence
The Indian Express in a report, after looking into police records, said a third of all "communal" incidents recorded by police in Uttar Pradesh, in the 10 weeks after the Lok Sabha election results were declared, have occurred in or around 12 assembly constituencies that are scheduled to go to polls over the next few months.
Between May 16 — when UP delivered a spectacular tally to the BJP in the Lok Sabha — and July 25, 605 low-key clashes took place which police identified as “communal” in nature, the report added.
Nearly 200 of these occurred in or around the 12 constituencies, and another 200 in the broader region.
According to the daily, five of these seats — Saharanpur Nagar, Bijnor, Kairana, Thakurwada and Gautam Buddh Nagar — are in Western UP, where the largest number of 259 communal incidents were recorded. Fifty-three incidents took place in Awadh, where the Lucknow East assembly seat will go to polls.
In the Terai, Eastern UP and Bundelkhand regions, each of which is home to two of the 12 seats, 29, 16, and 6 incidents respectively were recorded, the Express said.
(With PTI inputs)