New Delhi: Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani’s remarks about goddess Durga in the Rajya Sabha generated much political heat in the upper house on Friday as well, with the opposition demanding an apology from her and she rejecting it.
During the day, Irani and Bahujan Samanj Party supremo Mayawati indulged in a political slugfest in the Rajya Sabha over Dalit student Rohith Vemula’s suicide in Hyderabad University.
Irani maintained that she herself worshiped goddess Durga and said it was being made merely to prove a point.
As the upper house met for the day’s business, the opposition members were on their feet demanding Irani’s apology for reading out in the house on Thursday what they said were “blasphemous” comments about the goddess from a pamphlet allegedly written and distributed by some Jawaharlal Nehru University students.
The minister clarified she was being asked to explain what proof she had against the students and that is why she read out from the pamphlet.
“I read it because I was asked to explain,” the minister said, adding that she herself was a “practising Hindu” and she did not want to hurt anybody’s religious feelings.
“I, myself, am a practising Hindu and a Durga worshipper. The documents I read (from) yesterday (Thursday) are official documents from the university… these are not documents of the government,” the minister said.
Similarly, the minister, while responding to Mayawati’s charges on Vemula, denied that he was not given any fellowship money and that he was pushed towards his death.
“This impression (that Vemula was not given fellowship money) is not correct,” the minister said, adding he was given some money latest on November 20, 2015.
The minister also denied Mayawati’s contention that there was no Dalit on the panel investigating Vemula’s death.
“It is incorrect that there is no member from the scheduled caste community on the inquiry committee,” said Irani.
However, Mayawati was not satisfied and again accused the government of being “anti-Dalits”.
The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister said that the inquiry panel was a “farce” and aimed at saving people with “Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh links who abetted the research scholar’s suicide”.
Mayawati also accused Irani of “indulging in drama” and not doing anything for Vemula’s family.
Reacting to the BSP leader’s accusations, Irani said “Mayawati was not interested in justice but politics”.
Communist Party of India-Marxist secretary general Sitaram Yechury also criticised Irani over Vemula’s suicide and said the research scholar was “pushed to commit suicide”.
“You have pushed the child to commit suicide, its virtually a murder,” said Yechury.
Yechury also questioned the veracity of the Facebook account that she had claimed to be that of Vemula.
“Can a Facebook account be authenticated? Can quotes from the cyber space be permitted without the same being authenticated?” he questioned and insisted that nothing should go on record in the house without authentication.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi attacked the opposition, saying it had become a pattern for its members to seek short-duration discussions, calling attention motions and an apology in every session while showing no interest in legislative business.
Meanwhile, Irani’s comments in reference to goddess Durga and demon Mahishasur were expunged from the records of the Rajya Sabha on the instructions of Chairman M. Hamid Ansari, according to an official statement.
The Rajya Sabha on Thursday witnessed an intense debate on the recent incidents in the JNU and Dalit research scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide, even as Irani’s reply was cut short due to opposition protests that lead to adjournment of the upper house for the day.