Holi first, riots debate after that: Om Birla to Lok Sabha
Speaker Om Birla told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday the Narendra Modi government would discuss the Delhi riots only after Holi, triggering protests from Opposition members who have been pressing for an immediate discussion in the House.
Both Houses of Parliament continued to be stalled for the second successive day amid calls for Union home minister Amit Shah to step down over the violence that has claimed dozens of lives and left over 200 injured. “Government is ready for a discussion on this (the riots) issue. Government has said that after Holi on (March) 11 there should be a discussion on this issue,” Birla told the Opposition.
“Aapne charcha maangi aur sarkar charcha ko taiyar hai…. Holi ka achchha parv manaiye. Shauhard-purn tarike se desh me charcha hona chahiye. Aapbhi Holi manaeeye, sab Holi manayen (You asked for a discussion and the government is ready for discussion…. Celebrate well the festival of Holi. There should be a discussion in the country in a harmonious manner. You celebrate Holi, all celebrate Holi),” Birla told the House.
The advice to celebrate the festival came even as the toll in the violence rose to 48.
Birla spoke when Opposition MPs were already at the well protesting over the riots.
The Speaker’s statement infuriated them further.
Two adjournments had already taken place when Birla’s offer on behalf of the government came at 2pm. The angry Opposition members threw leaflets and paper balls at the Chair while many others were seen rushing to join MPs who were at the well. The Speaker then adjourned the House, wrapping up the proceedings for the day.
Earlier in the day, when the House met at 11am, the Opposition Congress, DMK, Left and Trinamul pointed out that they had submitted adjournment motions and wanted the House to immediately take up a discussion on the Delhi riots.
“The dead body count is increasing every day. Is it not our right to discuss the Delhi riots? Delhi is burning and the entire country is concerned. We are urging you (Mr Speaker) to allow us to discuss the issue,” Congress House leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said.
Parliamentary affairs minister Pralhad Joshi said the government was ready for a discussion but added in the same breadth that “restoration of peace and normalcy is the topmost priority”.
He said the Opposition could raise the issue now but appeared reluctant to hold a full-fledged discussion.
The Congress and other Opposition members protested at the well with placards. The Speaker objected, saying the House couldn’t be run like this. He then adjourned the House till noon.
At noon the House was adjourned again till 2pm.
The Rajya Sabha transacted little business for the second day on Tuesday as Opposition members kept demanding an immediate discussion on the riots but the government and Chairman Venkaiah Naidu repeated their stand of restoring normality first.
As the House assembled, the Opposition members stood on their seats and demanded a discussion. Naidu asked the members to keep silence but the MPs insisted on a discussion. He then adjourned the House till 2pm.
The scene was no different in the afternoon and led to an adjournment again. At 3pm, leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said a discussion on the riots should be held now.
“Delaying a discussion is like giving medicine to the patient after a week of illness. Already it is too late. We have not yet shown solidarity (with the victims’ families),” he said.
Thaawar Chand Gehlot, the leader of the House, said the government was ready for a discussion whenever the Chairman gives time.
The Opposition demanded that the issue be taken up as the first item for discussion on Wednesday morning.