Rajya Sabha adjourned for day over conversion issue
The Rajya Sabha was Monday repeatedly disrupted and finally adjourned for the day as opposition members continued vociferous protests on the conversion issue and demanded Prime Minister Narendra Modi assure such incidents disrupting communal harmony will not take place.
Though the government, which asked the opposition if they wanted a ban on religious conversions or forced religious conversions, agreed to a discussion, the opposition was not ready to relent unless Modi participated.
"The opposition can take the decision... There is no difference in opinion that such incidents (forced conversions) shall stop. Is the opposition wanting ban on conversion or forced conversions?" Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said as repeated adjournments marred the proceedings of the upper house, where the opposition is in the majority.
Protests started as soon as the house met for the day, when Congress leader Anand Sharma raised the issue.
"We have given a notice for suspension of question hour. There is a serious situation in the country. An organisation that calls itself a social organisation, has started a controversial programme on 'ghar wapsi'," he said.
The house was then adjourned by Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien till 12 noon.
As proceedings resumed, the entire opposition appeared united in the house as a notice for adjourning the question hour was submitted by the Congress.
While the adjournment motion was not accepted by Chairman M. Hamid Ansari,who was in the chair, the government agreed for a discussion.
Protests continued in the question hour, forcing Ansari to adjourn the house for 10 minutes and then till 2 p.m.
In the post-lunch session, the uproar continued and opposition members said they wanted Modi to assure the house that such incidents will stop.
On the government's side, Jaitley, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu and Home Minister Rajnath Singh were present in the house, and offered to take up the discussion immediately.
However, opposition parties insisted that the prime minister should be called.
"The incidents that are happening are a violation of the Constitution, and people related to ruling party are doing this," Sharma alleged.
Jaitley dismissed the opposition's stand, saying they did not want a debate, but only to disrupt the house.
"It is clear opposition is not interested in a debate, but disruptions," he said.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury then said mere discussion is not enough.
"We are not a talking shop. Discussion should be followed by action," he said.
Kurien said it is for government to decide who will answer the debate, also asking if the member was questioning the home minister's competence.
Members from the Congress and the Samajwadi Party then trooped near the chairman's podium, raising slogans. Other opposition members were seen raising slogans standing at their seats.
In the din, the house was adjourned for half an hour, and later for the day.
The issue is expected to be raised in the house Tuesday as well with both sides refusing to relent.
Sharma told reporters later: "It is about upholding the Constitution, not the benevolence of the government."
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, however, called it an insult to the mandate given to the government by the people.
Sources from the Bharatiya Janata Party said there is no scope for the prime minister to come to the Rajya Sabha Tuesday as well as he is engaged in campaigning for the BJP in the elections to the state assemblies in Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir. - IANS