Discuss Delhi in Parliament
The budget session resumed after a short recess earlier this week. But both Houses of Parliament have been unable to transact business. After a series of productive sessions over the past nine months in accordance with parliamentary processes, the conflict between the Treasury and Opposition benches has now brought Parliament to a grinding halt. This standoff has its roots in protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the larger climate of political polarisation. But the trigger for the current stalemate is straightforward. The Opposition wants a debate on the Delhi riots and violence immediately; the government was initially reluctant and now has offered to have the debate after Holi (March 10). Neither side is ready to budge.
The onus of breaking the impasse rests on the government. The Delhi violence was among the most disturbing episodes in recent years in India. It exposed deepening communal fault lines in the country; the inadequacy of public institutions such as the police in responding; the irresponsibility of a section of politicians in stoking hate; the dangerous role of fake news and rumours, disseminated through social media platforms; and the culture of impunity that enabled the violence in the first place.
Parliament is the ideal forum to discuss all these issues, for they go to the heart of the flaws in India’s governance systems and social relations. The Opposition is right in asking for a debate, even if it is extreme in asking for the resignation of top leaders (which appears more like a rhetorical demand in any case). If the government is willing to discuss this next week, why not do so immediately instead of letting precious time go waste? Once there is a full discussion on the violence, Parliament needs to go back to legislating and passing the Finance Bill — and ensuring strong legislative oversight on both the growing economic crisis and public health crisis due to the coronavirus. India has urgent challenges. It is time for the sovereign house to get back to work.