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Winter session disrupted over Anantkumar’s statement on secularism

Both houses of Parliament saw an uproar over Anantkumar Hegde’s controversial statement on secularism and mistreatment with Jadhav's family.

Even as the Parliamentary houses met for the winter session after a four day long Christmas break, the proceedings could not be carried out smoothly as a ruckus was created in the houses over Union Minister Anantkumar Hegde’s controversial statement on secularism. As soon as the Rajya Sabha met for the session, chaos broke out after the opposition raised questions on the Anantkumar’s statement that the BJP is here to change the constitution and will do so if the need be.

During a speech in Karnataka’s Koppal on 24 December Hegde has said that people should identify themselves as Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs or any other caste and religion rather than calling themselves secular. “Those claiming to be secular and progressive do not have an identity of their parents and their blood. One will get self-respect through such identity. I will be happy if someone identifies as Muslim, Christian, Brahmin, Lingayat, or Hindu. But trouble will arise if they say they are secular,” he said.

Opposition leader Ghulam Nabi Azad taking a jibe at Hegde said that he should not be allowed to be in the parliament if he could not respect the constitution. This remark of Azad came in wake of the statement made by Hegde in which he had said that “I respect the constitution but the constitution has changed according to the times on many occasions in the past and it will change in the future. We are here to change the Constitution.”

In order to get the situation under control and maintain the decorum of the house, Vice President & Rajya Sabha Speaker Venkaiah Naidu said that the government had already issued a statement that it does not agree with Anantkumar Hegde’s views and statement on the matter. In failed efforts to restore the session, the agitated Naidu said that “How much should I tolerate? This is not acceptable. This is not done, no discussion can take place without a proper notice.”

When Samajwadi party leader Naresh Agarwal raised the question that “Can those who abuse the Constitution and Babasaheb remain ministers?”, angry Naidu replied that “Where did Babasaheb come into this? Don’t bring Babasaheb Ambedkar into this.” While Subramanian Swamy said that “They have no business in dragging Babasaheb Ambedkar into this. Ambedkar did not include the word ‘secularism’ into the Constitution.”

Soon after the house met again at 12, within minutes it was again adjourned until 2, when the opposition refused to return to their seats and allow Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to speak.

On the other hand, the Lok Sabha was also adjourned until two, after chaos was created when  Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge raised the remark made by the Hegde, that the present government would remove the word ‘secular’ from the Constitution.

 Also, several opposition parties including Congress, Shiv Sena, Trinamool Congress and AIADMK, strongly protested, how the Pakistani authority treated the family members of Jhadhav when they had gone there to meet him, who is in a Pakistani prison. Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge demanded that Jhadhav should be brought back to India. While Shiv Sena leader Arvind Sawant strongly criticising the behavior of the Pakistan authorities said that India should not sit silently on this matter.

Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy described Pakistan as hypocritical and demand that the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj should speak on the issue. Responding to the statement of Roy, Sushma Swaraj said the government will make a statement in the Lok Sabha on 28 December regarding the treatment of Jadhav’s family by the Pakistan authorities.

Several opposition ministers criticised the way Jhadahv’s family members were treated. In his statement to the press, Congress leader V Moily said that “Manner in which Kulbhushan Jadhav‘s family was treated is inhuman. MEA should have ensured what kind of protocol is arranged for the family.It’s a diplomatic failure on the part of our Ministry of External Affairs and country. External Affairs Minister or Prime Minister should have taken up the matter with their counterparts in Pakistan.

Kulbhushan Jhadhav a former officer in the Indian Navy, was arrested in March 2016 in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, and he was convicted of planning espionage and sabotage. His wife and mother were allowed to see him on Monday, eight months after he was sentenced to death. But the way his family was treated by the Pakistan authorities was highly condemned by the Indians. Before meeting Jhadav, the two women were asked to remove the bindi, mangal sutra, and even their shoes during security screenings. Pakistani authorities had even refused to return the shoes that Jadhav’s wife had worn after the meeting.

The session resumed at 2 in both the houses of the Parliament. During the session, responding to the oppositions demand of apology from the Prime Minister regarding his remarks on former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh involved in a conspiracy with Pakistan, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that “Any view that Narendra Modi meant to insult Manmohan Singh or other leaders during election speeches is erroneous and uncalled for.” While speaking in the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley said that “PM in his speeches didn’t question, nor meant to question the commitment to this nation of either former PM Manmohan Singh or Former VP Hamid Ansari, any such perception is erroneous, we hold these leaders in high esteem, as well as their commitment to India.”

Responding to the statement of Jaitley, Opposition leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said that “Thank leader of the house for clarification on what has been an issue of contention. I, on behalf of my party, say that we disassociate from any comments made by any member during elections that may have hurt PM’s dignity, also we don’t want any such thing to be said in future.”

While the ruckus continued in the Lok Sabha after the session resumed after 2 over the controversial statement of BJP leader Anant Kumar Hegde.

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