'Open your eyes... country is being torn apart': First-time TMC MP Mahua Moitra sets stage for Parliamentary debate in fiery, maiden Lok Sabha speech

"Country is being torn apart. There is a powerful and continuing nationalism that is searing into our national fabric. it is superficial, it is xenophobic and it is narrow. It's a lust to divide and not the desire to unite." These were the opening words of first-time Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra who, in Lok Sabha, rose to oppose the Motion of Thanks on Tuesday. Moitra's fiery maiden address set the stage for the ongoing Parliament session. In one of the most spirited speeches, Moitra listed out reasons why India is slipping into a fascist rule under the current government.

Moitra began her speech by "humbly accepting the resounding mandate that this government has got", and advised caution immediately, adding, "But it is the nature of the very overwhelmingness of this mandate, of the totality of this mandate that makes it necessary for us to be heard today, for the voice of dissent to be heard today. Had the mandate been any less, there would have been a natural check and balance woven into the narrative, that's not the case. The House belongs to the Opposition, so I stand today to reclaim this inch that has been guaranteed to us."

Listing out seven reasons how the country is moving towards fascism, the Krishnanagar MP slammed the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre over its politics on NRC in Assam and Bengal, sloganeering indicating one's political and religious allegiance, its disdain for human rights and subjugation of the mass media. The former investment banker quoted Maulana Azad, and poets Ramdhari Singh Dinkar and Rahat Indori, to speak about the importance of dissent and freedom of religion.

 Open your eyes... country is being torn apart: First-time TMC MP Mahua Moitra sets stage for Parliamentary debate in fiery, maiden Lok Sabha speech

TMC MP Mahua Moitra. Image/Twitter user @iShantanuSingh

"You may say that ache din are here and that the sun will never set on the Indian Empire that it is seeking to build. But then you are missing the signs. Only if you open your eyes, you will see there are signs everywhere," she said.

Moitra became a politician after winning her first election from the Karimpur Assembly seat in 2016. Moitra was one of the few MLAs to take on the Narendra Modi government over surveillance. She filed three petitions against the ruling government's social media and alleged snooping efforts. The cases are pending in Supreme Court.

She said that the Constitution which each member of the House has "sworn to protect" is "under threat today". "Of course you may disagree with me, you may say achche din are here,” she said, pointing to the Treasury benches, "but then you are missing the signs".

"Citizens are being thrown out of their homes and being called ‘illegal immigrants’. People who have lived in this country for 50 years are having to show a piece of paper to show that they are Indians. In a country where ministers cannot produce degrees to prove that they graduated from college, you expect dispossessed people to show papers, to show that they belong to this country?"

While MPs from the ruling alliance continued to jeer at her, Moitra urged the Chair to put the House in order and continues. "Slogans and symbols are being used to test allegiance. There is no one symbol or slogan that can show any Indian as a patriot."

Quoting from "early warning signs of fascism", a poster on display at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, listing off early warning signs of looming fascism, Moitra added: "There is a resounding disdain for human rights that is permeating every level of government. She said that there has been a ten-fold rise in the number of hate crimes giving an example of the Pehlu Khan case and recently the lynching of Tabrez Ansari in Jharkhand.

Moitra criticised the ruling dispensation for its "unimaginable subjugation and controlling of mass media today."

"Five of the largest media organisation in India are today either indirectly controlled or indirectly indebted to one man in this country. TV channels spend the majority of the air time broadcasting propaganda for the ruling party. Let the government come out with facts and figures to show their ad spent in every TV channel," she said. Moitra added that the Union information and broadcasting ministry "employs over 120 people" just to check content on TV channels and ensure that no anti-government stories are circulating in the media.

Lok Sabha elections weren't fought on farmer issues or unemployment, Moitra said, "they were fought on lies Whatsapp and social media". "You repeat and repeat a lie until it becomes the truth," she said, likening BJP's election campaign to "Goebbels Doctrine". Joseph Goebbels was a German Nazi politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945.

Slamming its obsession with national security, Moitra said that the BJP government has reduced the entire Indian Armed forces to just one man. "The achievements of the army is being usurped by one man" referring to the prime minister. "The irony is that terrorist attacks have increased manifold. There is a 106 percent increase in the death of jawans in Kashmir," she said.

The "most dangerous" sign was the "complete disdain for the intellectuals and the arts" and "suppression of all dissent", she said and ended her speech with:

"There is dangerous fascism rising in India and it is incumbent upon all of us to stand up to it. Let us, the members of the 17th Lok Sabha, decide which side of the history do we want to be on — do we want to be upholders of the Constitution or do we want to be its pallbearers? I do not dispute the resounding mandate that this government has got but I have the right to disagree with your idea that there was no one before you and that there will be no one after you."

Being touted as the speech of the year, Moitra was commended on social media for "clear-eyed articulation" and being the voice of dissent

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Updated Date: Jun 26, 2019 10:14:47 IST