New Delhi: The Trinamool MP from Krishnanagar, Mahua Moitra, a first-time Parliamentarian Thursday submitted a breach of privilege motion against Zee TV and its editor Sudhir Chaudhary for allegedly falsely reporting her maiden address in the Lok Sabha.
Speaker Om Birla, however, disallowed it.
Moitra’s fiery speech, on the afternoon of 25 June, attacked the Modi government, accusing it of “all the signs of early fascism”. She particularly stressed on the government’s anti-immigration laws such as the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, saying that a country whose ministers can’t even produce degrees to prove they graduated, want dispossessed people to show papers.
Over the past few days, however, the speech, which had been widely lauded, has landed in a plagiarism row, with several commentators, particularly Zee TV’s Chaudhary, accusing her of lifting parts of her speech from a Washington Monthly article titled “12 early warning signs of fascism”, which referred to the U.S. and President Donald Trump.
As Moitra vehemently denied the charges, she received backing from the most definite of sources — Martin Longman, the American commentator who wrote the Washington Monthly piece.
“I’m internet famous in India because a politician is being falsely accused of plagiarising me,” he tweeted. “It’s kind of funny, but right-wing a******s seem to be similar in every country.”
I’m internet famous in India because a politician is being falsely accused of plagiarizing me. It’s kind of funny, but right-wing assholes seem to be similar in every country.
— Martin Longman (@BooMan23) July 2, 2019
Here is the full text of Moitra’s speech (the MP responses to interruptions are in bold):
Hon. Chairperson, Sir, I rise to oppose the Motion and to speak in support of the amendments made by our Party. First of all, let me begin by humbly accepting the resounding mandate that this government has got. But it is the very nature of the overwhelmingness of this mandate, of the totality of this mandate that makes it necessary for us to be heard today, for the voice of dissent to be heard today.
Had the mandate been any less, there would have been a natural check and balance woven into the narrative. That is not the case. The House belongs to the Opposition. So, I stand today to reclaim this inch that has been guaranteed to us. Let me first start by quoting Maulana Azad, whose statue stands tall outside this great hall. He once said of the country that he was fighting to build that it is India’s historic destiny that many human races and cultures should flow to her, finding a home in her respectable soil and that many a caravan should find rest here, where our cultures, our languages, our poetry, our literature, our art, the innumerable happenings of our daily life shall bear the stamp of our joint endeavour.
This is the ideal that was carved into our Constitution. This is the very Constitution that each of us has sworn to protect. But this Constitution is under threat today. Of course, you may disagree with me. You may say achhe din are here, and the sun would never set in this Indian Empire that this government is seeking to build. But then you are missing the signs. You are missing the signs and if you would only open your eyes, you would see that there are signs everywhere. That this country is being torn apart. In the few minutes that have been allotted to me, let me list out these dangerous signs.
The first sign is this. There is the powerful and continuing nationalism that is searing into our national fabric. It is superficial, it is xenophobic……(Interruptions) Sir, there is no room for professional hecklers; inside the corridors of this great Hall. There is no room. I urge you to put the House in order.
There is a powerful and continuing nationalism being sneered into our national fabric. It is superficial; it is xenophobic, and it is narrow. It is the lust to divide; it is not a desire to unite. Citizens are being thrown out of their homes and being called illegal immigrants. People who have lived in this country for 50 years are having to show a piece of paper to prove that they are Indians. In a country where ministers cannot produce degrees to show that they have graduated from college, you expect dispossessed poor people to show papers, to show that they belong to this country.
Slogans and symbols are being used to test allegiance. There is no one symbol or there is no one slogan that can show any Indian that he is a patriot. There is no one test!
The second sign: There is a resounding disdain for human rights that is permeating every level of the government. There has been a 10-fold increase in the number of hate crimes between 2014 and 2019. It is like the valuation of an e-commerce start-up. There are forces in this country that are sitting there just pushing this number up. The lynching of citizens in broad daylight is being condoned from Shri Pehlu Khan in Rajasthan last year to Shri Ansari in Jharkhand yesterday, the list is not stopping.
The third sign: There is an unimaginable subjugation and controlling of mass media today. Five of the largest news media organisations in India are today either indirectly controlled or indirectly indebted to one man in this country. TV channels spread a majority of airtime broadcasting propaganda for the ruling party, coverage of every opposition party is cut out.
Let the government come out with facts and figures to show ad-spend per media house, what they are spending the money on and which media house they are blocking out. The Information and Broadcasting Ministry employs over 120 people solely to check the content on TV channels every day to make sure that there is no anti-government news being put out.
Fake news is the norm. This election was not fought on farmers’ distress, this election was not fought on unemployment but this election was fought on Whatsapp, on fake news and on manipulating minds. Every piece of news that this government repeats, every piece of news that they put out, every lie that they put out, they repeat and repeat until it becomes a truth. This is the Goebbels’ Doctrine.
They talk of Namdar and Kamdar. Let me tell you, the Congress Party may have put up 36 dynasts since 1999 in Parliament but the BJP has put up 31. I tell you that every time they put out one figure, one fact, that is not the truth. They are destroying the fabric of India…(Interruptions). Sir, this is not a place for professional heckling. I urge you to put the House in order. I will wait. I urge you to put the House in order…(Interruptions).
Chairperson (Suresh Kodikunnil): The House is in order. You may continue.
Moitra: Yesterday, the floor leader of the Congress party said that the cooperative movement has been a failure in West Bengal. I urge him to check his facts. The one cooperative that he is referring to is the Bhagirathi Dairy in Murshidabad, which is now in profit. Every small misinformation that is put out serves to destroy this country.
The fourth sign: There is an obsession with the national security… (Interruptions). Sir, it is my maiden speech. I will conclude.
There is an obsession with national security and the identification of enemies. When we were children, my mother would say, “Do this and do that, otherwise, kala bhoot will come”. It is as though all of us in this country are today in fear of nameless, shameless ‘kala bhoot’. There is fear pervading everywhere. The achievements of the Army are being usurped in the name of one man. Is this correct? New enemies are being created every day… (Interruptions). I urge you, Speaker Sir, no professional heckling should be allowed.
The irony is that over the last five years, terrorist attacks have gone up manifold. There has been a 106 per cent increase in the death of jawans in Kashmir.
The fifth sign: Religion and government are now intertwined in this country. Do I even need to speak about it? Neither should I remind you that we have redefined what it means to be a citizen. With the NRC and the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, we are making sure that it is only one community that is the target of anti-immigration laws. Members of Parliament today are more interested in the fate of 2.77 acres of land than in the 812 million acres of the rest of India.
यह सिर्फ 2.77 एकड़ जन्मभूमि का मुद्दा नहीं है. यह देश के 80 करोड़ एकड़ को अखण्ड रखने का प्रश्न है. मैं आपको
The sixth and the most dangerous sign: There is a complete disdain for intellectuals and the arts. There is a suppression of all dissent. Funding is being cut for liberal education. Scientific temperament is enshrined in article 51 of the Constitution.
Chairperson (Suresh Kodikunnil): Hon. Member, please conclude now. You have already taken three minutes. Moitra: This is my maiden speech, Sir, please give me two more minutes.
Article 51 of the Constitution demands a scientific temperament. Everything we are doing is pushing India back to the dark ages. Secondary school textbooks are being manipulated and distorted in order to indoctrinate. You do not even tolerate questioning let alone dissent. The spirit of dissent is integral to India. You cannot shackle us. I wish to quote the great Hindi poet Ramdhari Singh Dinkar here:
हां हां दुर्योधन बांध मुझे,
बांधने मुझे तू आया है,
जंजीर बड़ी क्या लाया है,
सूने को साध न सकता है,
वह मुझे क्या बांध सकता है.
I tell you this, you cannot keep us down.
The seventh and the last sign is there is an erosion of independence in our electoral system. The Election Commission is being used to transfer key officials. Rs 60,000 crore were spent on this election of which Rs 27,000 crore, 50 per cent, were spent by one party.
In 2017, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum put up a poster in its main lobby. It contained a list of all the signs of early fascism. Each of the seven signs that I have pointed out to you, feature on that poster. There is a danger of fascism rising in India. It is incumbent upon all of us to stand up to it. Let us, the members of this 17th Lok Sabha, decide which side of history we want to be on. Do we want to be upholders of this Constitution or do we want to be its pallbearers?
I do not dispute the resounding mandate that this government has got. But I have the right to disagree with your idea that there is no one before you and there shall be no one after you.
Chairperson: Your allotted time is already over. Please conclude.
Moitra: Sir, in conclusion, I quote the poet Rahat Indori:
जो आज साहिबे मसनद हैं, वह कल नहीं होंगे,
किरायेदार हैं, जाति मकान थोड़ी है,
सभी का खून है शामिल यहां की मिट्टी में,
किसी ने बाप का हिंदुस्तान थोड़े ही है.