The Weekend Leader - Rajya Sabha stalled over conversion row; main accused surrenders

Opposition unrelenting on conversion row

New Delhi


Heated exchanges were witnessed in the Rajya Sabha Tuesday as the opposition once again raised the issue of religious conversions and refused to relent unless Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured the house of action. The main accused in the religious conversion case, meanwhile, surrendered in Agra.

Bharatiya Janata Party sources said Modi Tuesday warned party MPs at the parliamentary board meeting against crossing the "Lakshman Rekha" (limits) by making controversial statements.

Nand Kishore, the main accused in the religious conversion case, surrendered in Agra Tuesday. He was the most wanted accused named in the police complaint and carried a reward of Rs.12,000 on his head.

The issue, meanwhile, stalled the tabling of the insurance bill which figures at the top of the government agenda for the session.

The treasury and opposition benches in the Rajya Sabha were involved in heated exchanges as government members alleged that the opposition did not want a debate but mere disruptions.

"The issue is that you want anarchy and disruptions," an angry Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said as opposition members obstructed him while he was speaking in the upper house.

Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien said it was "unparliamentary language" that the minister used and urged the chair to expunge it.

Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien pointed out to the members that the Leader of the House should not be obstructed while he was speaking.

Congress leader Anand Sharma accused the government of being arrogant in not calling the prime minister to the house, and also of not allowing opposition members to speak.

"On behalf of the entire opposition, I want to say this government is not allowing opposition leaders to speak. If you stop us from speaking we will not let your ministers speak," Anand Sharma said.

"If you want the house to function, call the prime minister. They think the prime minister is above the house? The prime minister is the servant of the house, not the master," he said, as members from both the opposition and the treasury benches created a ruckus.

Throughout the day, the house witnessed repeated adjournments.

While government members repeatedly accused the opposition of running away from a discussion, the opposition continued to insist that there cannot be a debate unless Modi comes to the house.

"There are repeated incidents. No action is being taken by the government, and you are asking us to just discuss it," Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav said.

"The kind of comments the ruling party MPs are making, we cannot accept it," Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal said.

O'Brien said: "We want the prime minister to come and participate in the debate on conversion row. We are a responsible opposition and we have passed nine bills in this session. Unless the prime minister comes to the house, we won't let it function. The onus is now on the government to run the house."

Kurien reprimanded the members repeatedly, but the disruptions continued.

"This is the height of indiscipline. This is the height of unbecoming behaviour. The house is a place for discussion, not shouting slogans. I am disappointed with the behaviour of opposition parties," said the deputy chairman.

The house saw repeated adjournments, the first coming shortly after it met at 11 a.m., when Kurien adjourned the house for 15 minutes, and then till noon.

At noon, when Chairman M. Hamid Ansari arrived, the disruptions forced a brief adjournment, before Ansari adjourned the house till 2 p.m.

The protests continued post lunch and the house was adjourned till 2.30 p.m., and then for the day without taking up any business.

The opposition has been protesting in the wake of recent reports of conversion of Muslims to Hinduism, and also BJP parliamentarian Yogi Adityanath's comment supporting a mass conversion programme.

Adityanath reportedly said there was nothing wrong if people re-convert to Hinduism if they were doing it willingly.

According to reports, Muslims were converted to Hinduism at a mass ceremony organised in Agra by a right wing organisation last week.

The government Monday questioned the opposition if they wanted a ban on conversion or forced conversion, but opposition leaders ruled both out saying they were against the Constitution. - IANS

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