Irani slams Congress, Rajnath says no innocent to be harassed (Roundup)

New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesay assured Lok Sabha that no innocent student will be harassed in JNU row even as HRD minister Smriti Irani slammed Congress, which has accused Centre of seeking to crush opposing point of view.

Irani sought to take the battle over the central government actions concerning central varsities to the Congress, as the Lok Sabha witnessed a surcharged debate on the recent incidents in central universities with Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia accusing the Narendra Modi government of intolerance over the past 20 months of its rule.

The BJP’s and government’s point of view was articulated by MP Anurag Thakur and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu besides Irani and Rajnath Singh.

The Congress staged a walk out during Irani’s speech.

The suicide of Dalit student Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad University figured prominently in the Rajya Sabha also with the house witnessing repeated adjournments and verbal clash between Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati and Irani.

Rajnath Singh told the Lok Sabha that the government had not intervened in the row concerning the Jawaharlal Nehru University and police had acted following alleged raising of anti-national slogans at an event on the campus on February 9 to mark the anniversaries of executions of parliament attack convict Afzal Guru.

The minister said there could be a debate whether sedition charge should have been applied to JNU students union leader Kanhaiya Kumar and the issue will be decided by the court.

“I want to assure the house that no innocent will be harassed,” he said.

Referring to the violence in the Patiala House court ahead of court proceedings concerning Kanhaiya Kumar, he said the guilty will not be spared.

Earlier, Irani made an emotional speech, stating she was taking opposition’s allegations against her concerning the JNU and Hyderabad University personally.

“No one can raise a finger against me on this issue. I am taking it personally,” she said.

Strongly refuting allegations that letters by her ministry to Hyderabad university had pressurised Vemula, she cited examples of how her ministry follows up on issues raised by elected representatives.

She also refuted allegations of any bias in the working of the government. “My name is Smriti Irani. I challenge you to tell me my caste,” she said.

Irani said that the unfortunate suicide was being used for political ends. “Have you ever seen Rahul Gandhi go to one spot twice. Never. But in this, he saw political opportunity,” Irani said.

Earlier, initiating the discussion, the Congress leader Jyotiradiya Scindia hit out at the central government, saying: “Inside parliament, the ministers of this government take oath of constitution and outside they crush it. Using government machinery they are crushing the voices of those who oppose the ideology of RSS.”

“They targeted Kanhaiya Kumar just because he was opposed to the ideology of RSS and had defeated an ABVP candidate in JNU election,” he added.

“What we have seen in the last two years is an atmosphere of intolerance in the country. There is every possible attempt to crush opposing viewpoint,” Scindia said.

He said party had been demanding action against Irani and Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya over the suicide of Vemula.

Thakur accused Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi of standing with anti-nationals and said the Congress would have to decide “whether you are with those who attacked our parliament or those who protect it? You will have to decide whether you are with ideology of Gandhiji or Maoists.”

“Your leader goes and sympathises with those who were celebrating Afzal Guru as a martyr,” he alleged.

Thakur began by invoking the sacrifices of Captain Pawan Kumar, an alumni of JNU, who died in a gun battle with terrorists.

“For them (Congress), it is family first, party next and nation last. But for us, it is nation first, party next and self last,” he alleged.

Naidu, in his speech, also hit out at the Congress, saying no one was terming JNU as anti-national. He said it was duty of entire parliament to speak with one voice against those who had raised anti-national slogans.

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