Jharkhand assembly: BJP creates ruckus over ‘Namaz room’
The second day of the Monsoon session of the Jharkhand assembly was almost washed away on Monday with the opposition BJP legislators disrupting House proceedings, demanding withdrawal of an office order allocating a dedicated room in the Assembly complex for Muslims to offer prayers.
The BJP went on to describe the aforesaid Secretariat’s notification of allocating a “Namaaz Kaksh”, made official on September 2, as “Muslim appeasement”.
The party legislators, wearing saffron stoles, also organised religious song event, or ‘Kirtan’, on the steps of the Assembly with musical instruments before the start of the day’s proceedings.
Taking their protest inside the House when it convened around 11.15am, the BJP legislators disrupted proceedings and entered the well, demanding the Speaker to take up their adjournment motions on two issues--withdrawal of prayer room notification and the recently cleared employment policy by the Hemant Soren government.
As Speaker Rabindranath Mahto continued with the list of day’s business, taking up short notice questions, the BJP legislators started raising slogans and chants of “Jai Shri Ram” and “Har Har Mahadev”.
Though the Speaker assured the BJP that he would take up adjournment motion later in the day, the party members continued with their demand, with at least two legislators--Bhanu Pratap Shahi and Randhir Singh--going as far as scaling the reporters’ chairs. As the din continued, the Speaker adjourned the House within 15 minutes till 12.45 noon.
After the House resumed, the BJP legislators continued with their protest as the Speaker turned down all adjournment motions. It led to another round of adjournment till lunch. The BJP intensified their protest post lunch, as the Speaker initiated a discussion on inflation.
Both the BJP and it’s ally, AJSU Party, protested the discussion, saying that a Business Advisory Committee meeting decided that both inflation and unemployment would be taken up for discussion. However, the parties alleged, that the government has deliberately dropped unemployment from the motion of discussion.
As the BJP continued with its protest inside the well, the Speaker adjourned the proceedings till Tuesday.
Hitting back at the main Opposition party while speaking to media persons outside the House, chief minister (CM) Hemant Soren said the BJP was raking up the prayer room notification, as they have no credible issue to raise. “A conduct such as this in the House has been one of the major obstacles in the development of the state. Today, we were prepared to debate and answer all issues on matters during the CM Question Hour, but it did not happen,” Soren said.
Replying to a specific question that if he agreed with his Cabinet colleague Mithilesh Thakur’s suggestion of changing the nomenclature of the dedicated room to “prayer room”, that can be used by people of all faiths, the CM said, “If you have faith and God in your heart, there would not be any problem. But, if you have demons in your heart, everyone would seem like an enemy.”
Meanwhile, other treasury bench members defended the notification, saying it was “nothing new” and there has been a precedence of it in the state Assembly as well as in other states.
“I spoke to Inder Singh Namdhari (first Speaker of the Jharkhand assembly) and he clearly recalled that a room was dedicated for the purpose even when BJP was in power at the time. The BJP is unnecessarily making an issue. If they are so serious about it, why don’t they make a similar demand to Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, as a similar room exists at the Bihar assembly as well,” said finance minister Rameshwar Oraon.
BJP’s chief whip Biranchi Narayan challenged the state government to show any such notification from the past. “It’s an open challenge that the government produce any notification to that effect from the past. They are clearly opting for Muslim appeasement, and we will not allow the House to function until the notification is withdrawn,” he said.
Mandar legislator Bandhu Tirkey, a former minister and currently one of the four working presidents of the Jharkhand Congress, suggested there was nothing new in the notification, and the government could form a committee to look into old records.
First chief minister of the state and currently BJP legislature party leader Babulal Marandi underlined that even if there had been such a precedence in the past, it was wrong and the new notification should be withdrawn. “This is a temple of democracy and only Babasaheb Ambedkar should be worshipped here,” he said.