New Delhi: The Lok Sabha Wednesday saw several prominent names from the ruling BJP and opposition parties lock horns over last month’s Delhi riots.
BJP’s Meenakshi Lekhi and Tejasvi Surya, Congress’ Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and AIMIM’s Asaduddin Owaisi were among the MPs who took part in the heated debate, which lasted over four hours.
Lekhi, the MP for New Delhi, defended her party’s controversial leader Kapil Mishra, saying he was being blamed for the triggering the violence when others like Sharjeel Imam, Tahir Hussain, Amanatullah Khan and Waris Pathan were responsible.
“Kapil Mishra ko zimmedar theheraya gaya Sharjeel Imam ki harkaton ke liye, Tahir Hussain aur Shahrukh ki harkaton ke liye,” she said, also accusing Amanatullah Khan, the AAP MLA for Okhla, of making “inflammatory speeches”.
“Umar Khalid made a statement asking for everyone to come out on the streets when President Trump visited the country. Waris Pathan said 15 crore Muslims can dominate 100 crore Hindus. If we would have stopped these remarks, you would accuse us of curtailing free speech,” Lekhi said.
Trinamool Congress leader Saugata Roy called Lekhi the “devil’s advocate” for defending Mishra.
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‘Our Nero went to Ahmedabad’
Lekhi’s remarks came in response to Congress leader Adhir Chowdhury’s speech, in which he demanded that an FIR be registered against Mishra and Minister of State for Finance Anurag Thakur for their provocative statements.
Chowdhury also questioned why National Security Advisor Ajit Doval visited the riot-affected areas, and not Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
“The NSA doesn’t report to the home ministry. He reports to the PMO. Does this mean the PMO doesn’t trust the home minister to contain the violence?” Chowdhury asked.
Lekhi’s response was to say that if the home minister had visited the riot-hit areas, the entire police force would have to pay attention to him instead of the riots.
“If the NSA visits the place, it’s a problem. If he hadn’t, then also it would have been made out to be a problem,” she alleged.
Chowdhury also quoted the saying ‘Nero fiddles while Rome burns’ to take a jibe at Shah, saying: “When Delhi was burning, our very own Nero went to Ahmedabad.” This was in reference to Shah’s presence in Ahmedabad during US President Donald Trump’s India visit, which took place at the same time as the riots.
“Dilli teen din jalti rahi. Aap teen din kahan they? Aapke MP aur MLA kahan they — Bhojpuri gaane gaa rahe they? (Delhi was burning for three days. Where were you for three days? Where were your MPs and MLAs — singing Bhojpuri songs?)” Chowdhury asked, taking a jibe at Delhi BJP chief, North-East Delhi MP and Bhojpuri actor-singer Manoj Tiwari.
Chowdhury further accused Shah of negligence and called it the “biggest cause of the riots”.
“Baat baat mein Pakistan ko udaane ki baat karte hain… Agar hum Hindustan se Balakot jaa sakte hain airstrike karne, toh hum Dilli riots kaise nahi rok paaye? (Time and again, you talk of bombing Pakistan… If we can go from India to Balakot to conduct an airstrike, why couldn’t we stop the Delhi riots?)” he asked.
The Congress leader also accused the Delhi Police, which comes under the Union Home Ministry, of acting like “lame duck”.
“The police didn’t respond to any distress calls during the riots. There is no dearth of talent in the police — they were simply acting on the orders of the home ministry,” he said.
Chowdhury demanded Shah’s resignation, saying: “The failure of the Delhi Police and the overall failure of home ministry are sufficient grounds for dismissal of the home minister.”
‘Controlled riots within 36 hours’
Lekhi defended the Modi government, saying that it controlled the riots “within 36 hours”.
“Violence began at 12 noon on 24 February and had stopped by 11 pm the next day. This is an answer to all those asking what the home ministry was doing,” she said.
Lekhi added that the home minister held multiple meetings on 24 and 25 February with police officials and politicians across party lines to ensure the riots were contained.
Chowdhury also criticised the “midnight transfer” of Justice S. Muralidhar from the Delhi High Court, which was notified after a bench headed by him pulled up the Delhi Police for inaction against BJP leaders.
Lekhi responded by saying that transfers are recommended by the Supreme Court, and also suggested that the Intelligence Bureau reports of the transferred judges should be released. “IB reports on these justices should be made public, then you will understand many things,” she said.
‘Where’s my dignity?’
Hyderabad MP and AIMIM leader Owaisi said PM Modi had presided over a “pogrom” for the second time — after the 2002 Gujarat riots.
“To call this a communal riot would be a joke… This was a pogrom and it must be called that,” Owaisi said.
He further said that the Constitution guarantees the dignity of all citizens, but the dignity of the Indian Muslim is threatened.
“Where is my dignity if 19 masjids have been destroyed, if I see a saffron flag erected over a masjid, when I see an 85-year-old burnt alive, and when children have become orphans? Please show me my dignity,” Owaisi said.
Owaisi further alleged that Hindu lives are being given more importance than those of Muslims.
“Life of an Ankit cannot have a higher premium than the life of a Faizan. But unfortunately, that is happening because one is a Hindu and one is a Muslim,” he said.
Owaisi also referred to the viral image of Mohammad Zubair being beaten by a mob, which is being used by ISIS to call for retaliation. “You have radicalised the Hindu community, please don’t radicalise ours,” he said.
BJP’s Tejasvi Surya responded to Owaisi’s remarks by saying the allegations are a “planned conspiracy against the Modi government”.
“The home minister effectively stopped the riots within 36 hours,” Surya said, echoing Lekhi’s statement.
He added that the riots were “engineered”, and a consequence of the ongoing anti-CAA protests.
“In the Shaheen Bagh model, women are used as shields by radical Islamists… There is nothing anti-Muslim about the CAA. But everything is anti-Hindu in the anti-CAA protests,” he claimed.
Surya also hit out at Congress for “engineering a riot model”. “The nation wants to know why all these years the Congress party engineered all these riots,” he said.
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