Congress MP Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders held a march outside the parliament building this morning to protest the abrupt end to the monsoon session of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, and yesterday’s alleged assault on women MPs in the Upper House.
“Today we had to come out here to speak to you (the media) as we are not allowed to speak inside Parliament…. This is the murder of democracy,” Mr Gandhi was quoted by news agency ANI.
“First time ever in the Rajya Sabha… MPs were beaten, pushed around. The Chairman says he is upset… so is the Speaker. But it is their responsibility to ensure the House functions. Why have they not been able to do their job?” he asked.
“The Parliament session is over. As far as 60 per cent of the country is concerned… there has been no Parliament. The voice of 60 per cent of the country has been crushed, humiliated and yesterday, in the Rajya Sabha, physically beaten,” Mr Gandhi added.
The Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut, a member of the Rajya Sabha, declared that the alleged physical bullying of MPs, including women, “felt like we were standing at the Pakistan border”.
“Opposition didn’t get a chance to present their views in Parliament. Yesterday’s incident against women MPs was against democracy. It felt like we were standing at the Pakistan border,” he said.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi has called the opposition’s allegations “totally false” and said the facts could be checked by viewing CCTV footage.
On Wednesday – amid utter chaotic and unruly scenes in the Rajya Sabha, as the government tried to pass an amendment relating to an insurance bill – several women Congress MPs alleged they were physically bullied by male marshals as they were protesting in the Well of the House.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar later slammed the government, saying that in over a parliamentary career spanning 55 years he had never seen his women colleagues being attacked.
“It is painful. It is an attack on democracy,” he said, adding that over 40 Rajya Sabha marshals (men and women) and security staff were deployed in the alleged assault.
The Congress’ Chief Whip in the Rajya Sabha, Jairam Ramesh, later also alleged the amendment had been passed after a large security force was stationed inside the hall.
“The government refused to send it to a select committee… a demand by all opposition parties including those close to the BJP. What happened (then) was worse than atrocious,” he tweeted.
Parliament, which began July 19 and was scheduled to end on Friday, was declared closed yesterday after fierce protests from the opposition forced multiple daily adjournments.
A united opposition has been unrelenting in its attacks on the government in the past week, raising issues like the Pegasus phone-hacking scandal, the farmers protest and the fuel price hikes.
Protests have ranged from speeches and marches outside parliament to full-on clashes inside, with MPs jumping on tables, throwing files, storming the Well of both Houses and waving black cloth.
Yesterday Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu seemed to break down as he read a statement condemning the “sacrilege” and violation of the “temple of democracy” by the opposition.
Describing the centre of the House as a “holy sanctum sanctorum”, Mr Naidu said: “I am distressed by the way the way the sacredness was destroyed yesterday.”
Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla expressed similar angst, saying: “I urge all MPs… the House must be run in accordance with parliamentary traditions… Sloganeering and raising of banners are not a part of our traditions.”
Earlier today Congress chief Sonia Gandhi invited Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, her Maharashtra counterpart Uddhav Thackeray and other state and opposition leaders to a meeting aimed at consolidating the unity displayed by the parties versus the government in parliament.
The Congress’s plan is to take this unity forward, said party leaders, adding that other opposition parties were also being sounded out.
Sonia Gandhi’s initiative suggests an effort to ensure the Congress’s pivotal role in opposition unity moves to take on the ruling BJP in the 2024 election.
With input from ANI, PTI