Durga, JNU and Rohith Vemula: How Rahul Gandhi could have countered Smriti Irani in Parliament - Firstpost
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Durga, JNU and Rohith Vemula: How Rahul Gandhi could have countered Smriti Irani in Parliament

  Updated: Feb 26, 2016 16:50 IST

#HRD   #InMyOpinion   #JNU   #Mahishasur   #parliament   #Rahul Gandhi   #Rohith   #Smriti Irani  

Madam Speaker,

Let me begin by congratulating the HRD minister for mixing melodrama, mythology and Ashwatthama-truths in Parliament to come up with a heady cocktail of oratory. After watching her performance, I can say that she has proved Shakespeare right by turning Parliament into her stage.

But, more than Shakespeare, her eloquent words remind me of the great Indian shayar Mirza Ghalib and his famous couplet: Tere waade par jiye hum, to ye jhoot jaana, ki khushi se mar na jaate, agar aitbaar hota. (Wouldn't I have died with joy if your promises could be believed).

I could feel her voice tremble when she talked about the death of a "bachcha" in the Hyderabad university. Perhaps somebody forgot to write in her script the exact moment when she was supposed also to cry.

Smriti Irani and Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Smriti Irani and Rahul Gandhi. PTI

Let me ask her, Madam Speaker, when exactly did the HRD minister realise that the scholar her party and its stormtroopers hounded as "anti-national" was a "bachcha?" Here I would quote Rohith's mother, the woman who lost her child: "Your ministry had written that my Rohith and other Dalit students were anti-national extremists. You said that he is not a Dalit. You accused him of getting a false certificate. Should I say it is because you got false certificates for your educational qualifications that you think others do so too? You stopped my son's stipend, you got him suspended from the university. You are the minister for HRD, but you have no value for education. You can never understand how difficult it is for a Dalit to reach the stage of doing his PhD. You can never imagine the hardship, the struggle, the tears and sacrifice to reach that position. In three months, you destroyed what it had taken me 26 years to build."

Madam, I heard the honourable minister literally put her neck on the line in the Rajya Sabha while replying to a query by Behenji (I hope I am not labelled a sexist for calling Mayawati ji that instead of aunty) when she announced: "Agar mere uttar se aap santusht na ho to main apna sar kalam karke aapke charnoon main chhod doongi." (If you are not satisfied with my reply, I will cut of my head and place it at your feet).

I humbly advise the honourable minister to not make such dramatic promises to Rohith's mother if and when she summons the courage to face her and tries to answer her questions. Outside our Parliament, people may take such bravado seriously.

I was amused when the HRD minister said "koi meri jaati pooch kar to dekho." It is very nice to hear that you do not wish to propagate the varna system espoused in Manu Smriti, a treatise whose name the minister has begun to somehow find unparliamentary. But, isn't that a bit ironical when your esteemed colleagues like the foreign minister made Rohith's caste into an issue, the Prime Minister sought votes in the Bihar election by drawing attention to his pichchda status?

I know you are keen to deflect attention from Rohith's background. When an election in Uttar Pradesh is on the horizon and dalit votes are at stake, it suits your party to talk of kamandal (Ram Mandir) than Mandal (castes). But, don't forget, people in this country haven't forgotten that in letter after letter, press conference after press conference, attention was drawn to not just Rohith's jaati, but his mother's past and lineage. Let me remind you that while terrorists were walking down a red carpet in Pathankot, some of the agencies responsible for gathering intelligence on them were more keen to prepare dossiers on Rohith's family and its background.

But, your wisdom is borrowed from the principles of those sitting in a glass chamber and merrily casting stones at other. While you accuse others of using a "bachcha" for politics, you do not blanch with fear while dragging goddess Durga into your deplorable politics.

I know elections are due in West Bengal and Maa Durga is your new Ram Lala and Mahishasur your new Babar. But, pause and think for a moment when you read out graphic details about our revered Goddess in a bid to evoke rage in Bengal. Desist from turning her into a tool of your sectarian politics.

What exactly does the Goddess have to do with the current debate in JNU? For almost four years, dalits and tribals have been arguing their own version of mythology to counter the existing narrative. In 2012, several members of the All India Backward Students Federation (AIBSF) observed Mahishasur martyrdom day on the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus on Monday evening. Students from other states, including those from Bhim Rao Ambedkar University, Bihar, and Lucknow University participated. The programme saw a discussion on the legend behind Mahishasur, the demon king who was slain by Goddess Durga. At one such event, Dalit leader Udit Raj, who is now a BJP parliamentarian, was also also present.

Again in 2014, tribals and dalits in 15 states spread across Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal and Orissa celebrated the demon king” as a non-Aryan inhabitant and a just king of the land, with Durga representing Aryan invaders.

Do we hear you ordering your mythology brigade lead by the aptly named Bhim Bassi to round them up for sedition? Do we hear the collective howls of bhakts demanding that now Mysore be renamed after some RSS worker or former chief minister Yeddyurappa ji? Do we hear kar sevaks now being neatly lined up as Durga Vahini to take on the advancing armies of demon Mahishasur? Can we see you mounting a steed to battle the new straw man you have created? Will you now demonise Udit Raj?

Madam Speaker, I will not argue with the minister over her claims that Rohith could have been saved if he were examined by a doctor in time or that the "sedition" case on JNU students is based on solid evidence. On this, I will just advise the minister to hire a speech writer, not a script writer high on fiction and mythology, someone who noticed my left hand when I complimented you for turning Parliament into your stage.

Since you ended your speech with the words of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's speech, let me do the same by reminding you of your Raj Dharma, that's Dharma with an H, instead of hounding students, dalits, intellectuals, teachers and liberals, pitting Indians against Indians, mythology against history and turning Goddesses into election themes.

There is nothing more hypocritical than making a mother cry and then choking with emotion in Parliament over her son's death. There is nothing more anti—national than turning mere "bachchas" into pawns for your politics of pseudo-nationalism.

For your sake, I shall pray, Asato Ma Sad Gamaya, Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya, Mrityor Ma Amritam Gamaya.

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