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Monsoon session: Parliament uproar over cow vigilantes, anti-Dalit attacks

The Congress led the Opposition charge against the government over cattle-related lynchings and anti-Dalit attacks in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

india Updated: Jul 19, 2017 23:14 IST
Jayanth Jacob
Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Dalit attacks,Parliament monsoon session,Cow vigilantes
Congress leader Digvijay Singh speaks in the Rajya Sabha in New Delhi.(PTI Photo)

The Congress led the Opposition charge against the government over cattle-related lynchings and anti-Dalit attacks in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, leading to noisy scenes and repeated adjournments through the day.

“Mob lynching cases in the name of cow protection have increased across the country in the last three years. Those involved in the lynchings are being protected by the ruling party,” Ghulam Nabi Azad, party leader and head of the Opposition in the upper house, alleged. He also asked if these attacks were being carried out “in an understanding” with the ruling BJP.

Incidentally, this comes days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi instructed leaders of every state to clamp down on people who indulge in vigilantism in the name of cow protection.

The ruckus reached a crescendo in the afternoon, when members of the treasury benches said certain remarks made by Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Naresh Agarwal were hurtful to the sentiments of the majority community. Though pandemonium prevailed for a while, the matter was resolved after the member apologised and the remarks were expunged by the chair.

The issue had taken centrestage in the morning itself, when SP leaders stormed the well of the House to express dissatisfaction over the Centre’s response to a question on lynchings carried out in the name of cow protection. Finally, chairman Hamid Ansari had to adjourn the proceedings for 10 minutes.

Raising the issue during Question Hour, Agrawal asked if innocents were being lynched or attacked in the name of cow protection and sought details of such incidents. Minister of state for home affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir replied that states have the power to act against offenders, and the ministry has already issued an advisory asking them to register FIRs in such cases. He also referred to Modi’s open condemnation of cow vigilantes to drive home his point, and said that the National Crime Records Bureau has – for the first time – started keeping a record of lynchings that occurred since 2014.

Countering the Opposition attack, minister of state for parliamentary affairs Muktar Abbas Naqvi said lynching was a crime and those indulging in such acts were criminals. He then proceeded to speak on the NDA’s commitment to the all-round development of India.

However, CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury refused to buy into the government’s argument. Asserting that mob lynchings strike at the very root of India’s republican constitution, he said: “Today, you have people who question who eats beef and who doesn’t to identify Hindus and non-Hindus. Is this what my country is coming to? And these private armies are roaming around freely.”

Yechury also demanded a ban on all cow vigilante groups and anti-Romeo squads. “The Prime Minister said this is a state subject because it is a law-and-order issue. But these private armies, which are taking the law and order in their own hands, need to be banned by a central order. They cannot be banned by state governments,” he said.

Trinamool Congress member Derek O’Brien accused the central government of “lighting fires” in states across the country. He said Opposition parties should fight for the cause of the poor and marginalised people who were being lynched in these violent times, and not get cowed down by the “political terrorism” being unleashed by the ruling party.

The Opposition, meanwhile, received support from unexpected quarters when the Shiv Sena condemned recent incidents of cow vigilantism and wondered what the self-appointed gau rakshaks were doing when terrorists targeted Amarnath pilgrims in Kashmir recently. “Even the Prime Minister has had to face criticism over the ruckus created by gau rakshaks across the nation. They did not stop even after he criticised them. This has become more of a business now,” an editorial published in the party’s mouthpiece, Saamna, said.

First Published: Jul 19, 2017 23:13 IST