What our Parliamentarians said about Intolerance: 10 best speeches from the Winter Session
Akshay Sharma Delhi
Is intolerance really rising in the country? This question has dominated news cycles for the last few months. It was only expected that it will resonate within the Parliament as well. The winter session started with discuss on the constitution and not surprisingly, the issue of intolerance soon took centre-stage. The opposition went hammer-and-tongs at the government and the treasury benches returned fire with all their might. Indian parliamentarians have always been accused of indulging in disruption over productive work, but these debates prove that Indian MPs are capable of producing debates which are both fiery and meaningful. We have here a list of the best of these speeches -:
Mohd. Salim – “We want a rational India, we want a secular India”
While he doesn’t belong to the main opposition party, Mohd. Salim of CPI (M) was the one to lead the charge against the government and was scathing in his attack. He accused the government of not respecting the constitution and instead make token gestures of respect towards it. He attributed a comment to Home Minister which created a controversy. He continued his speech after the disruption and said that the BJP is trying to undermine the pluralistic culture of India.
The speech - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fXhb0c6NUUo
Meenakshi Lekhi – “All this atmosphere is being created to malign the image of a democratically elected government”
The first speaker from the ruling party to speak on this issue was the MP from Delhi. She rejected the charge that intolerance is growing by quoting figures on communal violence from the Home Ministry and calling intellectuals who have returned their awards “Intellectual Mercenaries”. She was her usual combative self and by citing various examples, accused the Congress of hypocrisy and double standards. She also didn’t spare the left parties and mentioned incidents that took place in left-governed Kerala and West Bengal. Her line of argument was aimed at proving that the Congress is guiltier of “intolerance” and therefore has no right of accusing BJP of the same. The speech was mostly in Hindi but parts of it were in English as well. Though her delivery wasn’t flawless, she was able to make her points clearly much to the satisfaction of the treasury benches.
The speech - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQnaZozR8lQ
Supriya Sule – “We are looking at a divided India”
NCP’s Supriya Sule was another important speaker in this debate. She was of the opinion that intolerance is a real problem in the country. While she was addressing the larger nationwide problem of intolerance, her focus was the state of Maharashtra. Mentions were made to recent attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni and the cancellation of Ghulam Ali’s concert. Rather than being aggressive towards the government, she was calm and balanced, urging the government to rein in people who are making controversial statements.
The speech - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qUzgg60j7Iw
Kirron Kher - “Suddenly these people feel intolerance, they didn’t feel it when UPA was in power”
Another spirited intervention from BJP’s side was from Kirron Kher. Like Meenakshi Lekhi, she was also very aggressive and started by targeting intellectuals and the Congress Party. She mentioned the expulsion of Kashmiri Pandits, the Anti-Sikh massacres, Operation Bluestar and other incidents of the past to make the case that the situation in the past wasn’t better. She even chided the Congress for removing her husband, actor Anupam Kher from the post of Censor Board chief. There was the customary reference to the Emergency as well. She recounted a range of incidents, including some related to the film industry to try and prove that those citing the increase in intolerance have been selective in their outrage, and that the other side is even more guilty of intolerance.
The speech - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MaqSSwdYTJk
Shashi Tharoor – “Impression has gained ground abroad that India is governed by reactionary forces”
As usual, Shashi Tharoor was erudite and articulate in his intervention. He didn’t have a lot of time but was able to make his point in a persuasive way. What was interesting was that he chose to speak in Hindi for a large part of his speech, even ending by quoting a verse of the Urdu poet Iqbal. He referred to the negative coverage of India in foreign press and suggested that the image of India is being tarnished by the recent events. He also said that the Prime Minister has turned away from what he said in the election campaign and has kept quiet when elements in his party have indulged in the politics of polarisation.
The speech - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Mfd671Fwp4
Sugata Bose – “The government can learn much more from the criticism of its opponents than the eulogy of its supporters”
Trinamool Congress’s MP from Jadavpur, Prof. Sugata Bose made one of the most impressive and intellectually appealing speeches in the debate. His speech was a refreshing change from the heated political rhetoric and mud-slinging that consumed most of the debate. In a speech that showed his academic background, he asked for the observance of constitutional morality and quoted BR Ambedkar’s words to elaborate his point. There was a lot of reference to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and the INA which was unsurprising as Sugata Bose is the grand-nephew of Netaji.
The speech - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RXb1DyZotE
Asaddudin Owaisi – “I term the killing of Akhlaq as an attack on Constitution”
AIMIM’s leader Asaduddin Owaisi made a short but extremely fiery and angry speech where he not only talked of recent incidents but also other issues related to the Muslim community. He argued that the Muslims have been facing discrimination in this country for a long time and highlighted some social indicators to make his point. He targeted both the Congress and the BJP for mistreating Muslims over the years. He also suggested certain measures to curb violence against Muslims.
This speech - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCZn7dfukgk
Rahul Gandhi – “In today’s India, protest means sedition”
Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi started his speech on a sober note but soon became aggressive and targeted the government on various issues from VK Singh’s controversial statements to the Patidar agitation in Gujarat. In his high-pitched intervention, he launched scathing attacks on the government. He accused the BJP of insulting the intellectuals who have raised their voice against rising intolerance. He also questioned whether the Prime Minister is genuinely committed to ideas of Gandhi and to the constitution as he claims.
The speech - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnU0plKOueI
Galla Jayadev – “Forgiveness and peaceful co-existence are innate and in-built into our culture, tradition and ethos”
TDP MP from Guntur Galla Jayadev made a measured and composed speech. He talked about the evolution of Indian civilization from the ancient times and how respect for diversity is integral to it. He mentioned how India has been home to all major religions of the world. He stated that his party disapproved of the acts of intolerance but argued that the responsibility of law and order rests with the state governments. While he wasn’t toeing the BJP line in the debate, he was largely supportive of the central government.
The speech - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Xt4SRFy0Sc
Rajnath Singh – “The image of India won’t be blighted by the fake propaganda of a handful of people”
At the conclusion of the debate, Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke on the issue. He had intervened earlier after Mohammed Salim had attributed a controversial statement to him. He asserted that India is more tolerant than any other country and claimed that hysteria of intolerance is being built by certain individuals. He mentioned the recent events of intolerance in the country and defended the central government’s response to it. He attacked the writers for remaining silent when incidents of communal violence had taken place earlier but in the end struck a conciliatory note by requesting those who have returned their awards to take them back and invited them to discuss their concerns with the government.
The speech - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNsQfl1TSvU