Rajat Sharma

Rajya Sabha: Ensure that ugly spectacle is not repeated

AKB30 The entire nation watched on Thursday the ugly spectacle of MPs in Rajya Sabha wrestling with male and female marshals inside the well of the House. The incident had taken place on Wednesday evening when the Insurance Amendment Bill was being passed. Both the government and the opposition blamed each other for the jostling and shoving that took place inside the House.

Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge, and Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut, after marching from Parliament to Vijay Chowk with other opposition MPs, alleged that MPs were “beaten up” by “outsiders from RSS wearing the uniform of marshals”. This was promptly rejected as a “bunch of lies” by at least eight ministers of the government, including Piyush Goyal, Anurag Thakur and Pralhad Joshi, who alleged that some of the MPs injured a woman marshal during the melee.

Piyush Goyal alleged that some of the MPs beat up a woman marshal and she fell on the floor. Video of Rajya Sabha surfaced which clearly showed the woman marshal was being shoved by several MPs. The opposition alleged that only selective videos were being released by the government. Sanjay Raut said he felt as if he was standing at the India-Pakistan border.

In my prime time show ‘Aaj Ki Baat’ on Thursday night, I showed all the video clips and the list of all security officers (marshals) present inside the House at the time of commotion. I identified each of the 42 marshals by name to check whether the opposition’s charge that outsiders were brought in the uniform of marshals was valid or not. I also showed medical reports of marshals who suffered injuries.

By alleging that MPs were “beaten up” by outsiders from RSS wearing uniform of marshals, Rahul Gandhi has questioned the sanctity and impartiality of the Chair. This never happened before. In the past, the opposition used to level charges against the Prime Minister and other ministers, but never against the Chair. This was unprecedented. By raising the finger of suspicion at Rajya Sabha chairman, the opposition has made a mockery of the tears shed by Venkaiah Naidu inside the House on Wednesday.

Rahul Gandhi has been a member of Parliament for 17 years and has been the president of the oldest political party in India. Such a serious charge levelled by him requires detailed scrutiny.

In my show, I showed the footage inside the House taken on camera but not shown in the live telecast due to strict rules on telecast of proceedings. At 6.02 pm, when the insurance amendment bill was being moved inside the House, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien gestured towards his party colleague Dola Sen. The latter took another party colleague Shanta Chhetri with her, with a cotton like hanging rope coiled around Shanta’s neck, and Dola Sen holding the other end of the rope. Both of them stood inside the well of the House and were chanting slogans. Other opposition MPs were shouting slogans from their benches.

As Dola Sen and Shanta Chhetri proceeded towards the space beneath the Chair’s podium, marshals came and guarded the Chair. The marshals wanted to secure the entire well and space around the Chair. Sasmit Patra of Biju Janata Dal was then in the chair as presiding officer.

At around 6.05 pm, Congress, Trinamool Congress and Shiv Sena MPs entered the well and chanted slogans. They formed a ring around the reporters’ table. As per the video, at 6.22 pm, Dola Sen pushed the Leader of the House Piyush Goel and tried to obstruct Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pralhad Joshi. At 6.26 pm, Congress whip Naseer Hussain, TMC MP Arpita Ghosh and Shiv Sena MP Priyanka Chaturvedi, tore papers and threw the shreds towards the chair.

When I checked footage from other cameras, I was surprised to watch TMC MP Sukhendu Shekhar Roy speaking on the bill, even as his party colleagues were trying to disrupt the proceedings. Soon after BJD and AIADMK members also took part in the debate, and it appeared as if the proceedings have returned to normal. Within seconds, opposition MPs became aggressive, started sloganeering, tore papers and threw the shreds, and nearly 24 MPs entered the well.

By then, the marshals, including lady staff, had formed a cordon around the reporters’ table and then female MPs took charge. Two Congress MPs Phulo Devi Netam and Chhaya Verma tried to physically remove female marshals from their spot. Both the female MPs were seen jostling and shoving a lady marshal.

The video clearly showed that Phulo Devi Netam had caught hold of the neck of the lady marshal and was trying to hit her with her head. The name of the lady marshal is Akshita Bhatt. She is a Security Assistant in Rajya Sabha. She had injuries on her neck and swellings on some portions of her body. I have a medical report on her signed by the CMO of the CGHS dispensary in Parliament. Her shoulder and chest x-ray reports showed serious injuries.

In her complaint, Akshita Bhatt has named the two Congress MPs Netam and Chhaya Verma of holding her arms and beating her. In her complaint, she said, she tried to exercise utmost restraint and did not hit back. In the process, she had swellings on her left wrist and left shoulder.

The House was adjourned at 6.10 pm but when it resumed after 15 minutes, Congress Assam unit chief Ripun Bora tried to stand on the reporters’ table and wanted to go towards the Chair. Seven to eight minutes later, TMC leader Derek O’Brien came to the house. He was holding his cellphone and was recording the melee on his camera. His party colleagues, Arpita Ghosh, Mausam Noor and Dola Sen stood on the members’ bench. The surprising part was that, RJD MP Manoj Jha and AAP MP Sushil Kumar Gupta were taking part in debate even as the opposition members were trying to disrupt proceedings.

No need to say who hit whom after all that have appeared in the camera footage. I have more than 20 still images of what happened inside the House on Wednesday evening.

These images depict Dola Sen and Shanta Chhetri walking towards the well with a cotton hanging rope, Dola Sen trying to physically prevent two ministers Piyush Goyal and Pralhad Joshi who were entering the House from the passage leading towards the Chairman’s chamber. There are images of Congress MP Naseer Hussain asking Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut to move towards the reporters’ table. By that time, more MPs Ripun Bora, E. Kareem, Benoy Viswam and Akhilesh Pratap Singh had reached the well. There is the image of CPI(M) MP E. Kareem holding the neck of a marshal, there was another image of a lady marshal being dragged and beaten up.

Rahul Gandhi had alleged that a large number of outsiders from RSS posing as marshals were deployed to “stifle the voice” of the opposition. According to Piyush Goyal, only 30 marshals were present in the House, 12 female and 18 male. They were required to protect the Chair and the reporters’ table.

What Rahul has alleged is very serious. How can outsiders be brought in the uniform of marshals inside Parliament? He is questioning the Rajya Sabha Chairman himself.

Marshals, we should know, are not appointed by the government. Marshals are appointed by the chairman of the House. When the Constitution Amendment Bill was being debated a few hours ago inside Rajya Sabha, only 14 marshals, including two female, were present. But when the melee began, all the 42 marshals were deployed inside the House to prevent violence. Most of the marshals formed a cordon around the reporters’ table to prevent a repeat of what happened on August 10, when MPs stood on the table and threw papers and rule book at the Chair.

In my show, I named all the 42 marshals who were deployed in the house along with their designations. They were led by Rajeev Sharma, Special Director (Security), aided by four additional directors, one joint director, four deputy directors, eight Assistant Security Officers, and six Security Assistants. These 24 marshals are from Rajya Sabha security. The rest were security officers deployed in the lobbies and were called for support. Among the 42 marshals were 31 male and 11 females. There is another complaint from a security assistant Rakesh Negi, who alleged that CPI(M) MP E. Kareem and Shiv Sena MP Anil Desai attacked him. Kareem caught him by the scruff of his neck and caused him suffocation and injuries.

Several seasoned opposition leaders watched the melee with their own eyes, and yet they are not going to accept the truth, even if the names of all marshals and all the camera footages are shown to them. They may have their own compulsions. But what was the crux of the matter? What was the dispute all about?

It so happened, that the opposition after stalling proceedings from Day One, had agreed on Wednesday to get the OBC Constitution Amendment Bill passed peacefully. After the bill was passed unanimously, the government wanted two more pending bills to be passed, and that led to the opposition causing a melee.

It is a fact that the Hon’ble Rajya Sabha leaders, who have been alleging that outsiders had been brought in as marshals, know these marshals by name, because they interact with them on a daily basis. It is also true that 42 marshals were deployed on Wednesday evening to prevent any ugly recurrence. Even security staff from Lok Sabha were also requisitioned. And yet, the opposition leaders are unwilling to admit that they scuffled and shoved the marshals. They are unwilling to admit that these are raw camera footages from the Rajya Sabha archives. They are unwilling to admit that their own party colleagues instigated the shoving and jostling inside the well.

Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu is a seasoned parliamentarian and politician. He knows how to stick to parliamentary ethics and rules for conduct of proceedings. He cares for the dignity and respect of Opposition members too. Throughout his tenure as Chairman, he always allowed opposition members to speak. He never tried to stifle anybody’s voice. But as a parliamentarian with conscience, he could not have remained silent watching a bunch of MPs standing on the reporters’ table, shouting slogans and throwing the rule book at the Chair.

The saddest part is that at a time when the entire nation is battling with a deadly pandemic, with people losing employment due to frequent lockdowns, our members of Parliament, instead of debating serious issues, tried to disrupt proceedings continuously for almost a month, and then resorted to an ugly duel with the security staff.

The sadder part is that this controversy was sought to be given a political motive. The opposition leaders alleged that they were not allowed to speak. The smooth debate on the OBC Constitution Amendment Bill clearly showed that the opposition not only listened, but also spoke. To allege that marshals were brought in for the first time inside the House is not true.

I have seen opposition leaders like Maniram Bagri and Raj Narain being dragged by marshals from inside the House during Indira Gandhi’s rule. The opposition has alleged that marshals beat up some MPs and misbehaved with some of their female colleagues. But the camera footage makes it clear that their allegation is a white lie. On the contrary, the footage clearly shows that some of the MPs jostled, shoved and beat up the marshals.

The opposition’s allegation that outsiders were brought inside the House in the uniforms of marshals does not hold water. These marshals are part of the Rajya Sabha security staff, who have been working since years. It is a sacrilege to use security staff as pawns in the political game that is being played. Remember, these are from the famous Rajya Sabha security staff, who took terrorists’ bullets on their chests to protect the lives of members during the infamous Parliament attack on December 13, 2001.

The ultimate question is of the dignity and decorum of Parliament. It relates to the prestige of Indian democracy. I would request the Rajya Sabha Chairman to take up this matter seriously and ensure that stringent punishment is given to the offenders. Let us hope that such scenes are not repeated in future. Let the leaders of all parties sit together, let them take the Chairman’s advice and ensure that Parliament is run smoothly, in future.

Get connected on Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

Comments are closed.