On Thursday, Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Mahua Moitra slammed the Lok Sabha chair, BJP MP Rama Devi, for abruptly ending her speech before her given time of 13 minutes was over, a day after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was booed from the Treasury benches. Later, she protested the chair by finishing her speech in front of the media outside the Lok Sabha.
She cited a number of human rights breaches and alleged executive excesses during the Narendra Modi government’s last few years in her address on the Motion of Thanks to the President’s Address. She noted that India’s classification had been reduced from “free” to “partly free” by the US-based Freedom House Report, and that India had slid 17 places to 111th place out of 160 countries in the Human Freedom Index.
She also stated that India ranks 142nd out of 180 nations in the World Press Freedom Index, and that India “remains one of the most dangerous places for journalists today.”
While the Treasury benches were mostly silent during her address, the chair unexpectedly interrupted her roughly five minutes in, saying, “Mahua ji, thoda sa prem se boliye. Itna Gussa mat kariya. Ache se Boliye (Please talk in a mellow manner, don’t get angry. Say it in a good way).”
Mahua reacted by claiming that her rage stems from within, and she went on to continue her statement. She cited Hindi poet Ramdhari Singh ‘Dinkar,’ who remarked that while tolerance and forgiveness are values to imitate, one should not be afraid to express one’s power.
“Thoda bal bhi dikhana chahiye (We should show little strength too),” Moitra said, eliciting the remark, “Bas thoda hi hona chahiye, Sahanshilta sabse pahle (Yes, it should be shown only a little. Tolerance should be above all),” from the chair.
Her remarks were laced with references to the farmers’ protests, the ‘Bulli Deals’ app, which auctioned Muslim women, and the Pegasus spyware controversy:
“The Pegasus fiasco exemplifies how the republic’s leaders distrust the present. The government is accused of using taxpayer funds to purchase technology that allowed it to spy on its own citizens for years. The New York Times, The Wire, Amnesty International, the French government, the German government, the US government, and WhatsApp and Apple, which have sued NSO, are all lying, according to a famous journalist. Only this government has the truth on Pegasus, and it is in exquisite isolation. One minister refers to it as Supari media, while another stands up in this chamber and flatly lies to us. Even the Supreme Court has been duped by the government.”
She went on to mention raids on opposition leaders ahead of elections, Hindu fanatics’ targeting of Muslims, and recent attacks on Christians in 19 Indian towns by the same groups. She slammed the Union government’s attempts to change IAS cadre norms, claiming that the changes were a heavy-handed attempt by the Union government to “bully” state bureaucrats.
“You despise Jats, Sikhs, and anyone who opposes you.” But, with elections looming, you shamelessly don a pagdi,” she remarked, referring to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who wore a Sikh turban during the NCC Republic Day camp.
“You (the government) want to go into our houses and see what we eat and wear,” Moitra explained.
The mention of freedom fighters in the president’s message, according to Moitra, was merely “lip service.” Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, whom Kovind mentioned in his address, believed that the Indian government should be completely unbiased and impartial toward all religions. “Would Netaji have approved of a Haridwar Dharma Sansad that issues blood-curdling calls for Muslim genocide?”
Moitra further claimed that the government is afraid of an India that is “at ease in its own skin.” “Our constitution is alive, and it will continue to live as long as we are ready to give it life.” Otherwise, it’s just a piece of black and white paper that any majoritarian government can smear into shades of grey,” she remarked.
“They are afraid of the future and mistrust the present,” the TMC MP added, accusing the Modi government of attempting to “change history.” “This struggle of 80% vs. 20% that this government has initiated risks destroying our nation,” she continued.
Rama Devi, however, pressed the bell and invited Kerala MP Mohammed Basheer to speak a little over 11 minutes into her address. Despite Rama Devi’s protests that her allotted time had not yet expired and that she would require two more minutes, her address was cut short.
Moitra launched her protest immediately after her speech. “Is it her right, or her business, to tell me how I should deliver my speech?” She warns me not to become enraged. It is entirely up to me whether I should be angry or relaxed. It’s my tone, my tenor.”
She wanted to know if the opposition parties are expected to keep their rage in check from now on. “What is left if we have to sit there and suppress our gussa (rage) given what the government is doing,” the TMC MP remarked.
She urged all opposition parties to join forces in order to defeat the BJP. “Woh Subah hum hi se aayegi (That dawn will come from us). Enough of sahanshilta (tolerance), daya (symapthy), Kshama (forgiveness), it is time now to become Tipu’s (Sultan) springing tiger.”