Government, opposition spar on rising incidents of violence and intolerance

New Delhi: The Central government and the opposition parties continue to spar on the issue of rising incidents of violence and intolerance. Even as Union finance and information and broadcasting minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday insisted that freedom to air dissent was vital to democracy, and resorting to vandalism was an ‘extremely disturbing trend’, the Opposition slammed him, saying the government should act rather than just condemning the acts of ‘its own extremist groups’.

PM Modi

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said Jaitley’s statement condemning the acts of intolerance was made keeping the Bihar Assembly polls in mind. “The BJP president’s statement and the finance minister’s statement were limited to this,” he said.

“The perpetrators are being protected because they are part of their organisation. If the government is serious about it, it should act against these people,” he said, adding that the government should go beyond just condemnation and take action,” Sharma told reporters at the AICC headquarters here.

CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury echoing similar sentiments questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s studied silence on the issue.

“It is a very strange statement by the finance minister. He says that it is very disturbing that people are using violence or force to establish their point of view. Did he forget that they are the government? There is law of the land under which giving such inciting speeches that disturb communal amity in the country is a penal offence. Why is action not being taken by this government,” asked Yechury.

“The Prime Minister tweets on everything under the sun, but on this why has he kept quiet… By not acting clearly, they are patronising these forces. That is the basic point, stop giving sanctimonious speeches, stop preaching, act and implement the law of the land,” he added. Both Sharma and Yechuri were reacting to Jaitley’s statement earlier in the day when he expressed concern over the recent acts of vandalism and said that there is no place for violence in democracy.

Earlier, Jaitley called for a “civilised mode” of debating issues. He also tried to differentiate between the BJP and its ally Shiv Sena. Unlike the Shiv Sena, he said, no one from his party had resorted to violence and some had been even pulled up for making controversial statements.

Jaitley was reacting to Shiv Sena workers’ act of vandalising the office of BCCI in Mumbai, protesting against talks with Pakistan on resuming sporting ties. The Opposition also criticised him for not reacting when a few days ago Shiv Sena activists had blackened the face of former BJP leader Sudheendra Kulkarni for organising the launch of a book written by former Pakistan foreign minister KM Kasuri.

“All right-thinking sections will have to distance themselves from these kinds of methodologies,” said Jaitley, expressing concern over the increasing incidents of intolerance ever since the Dadri incident of lynching of a man on the suspicion of eating cow meat.

He said the BJP has put on notice some of its own leaders who had made controversial statements in the wake of the Dadri lynching to make it clear that the party has “outright shown our disagreement with these kinds of statements.”

Jaitley said that those using these methods, including copy cat vandalism, must also “introspect” whether they are adding to the quality of Indian democracy or are they really reducing the credibility of India as a country before the eyes of the world itself.

To a question on the Sena protest in BCCI office, Jaitley made it clear that he would only urge the ally that it must realise that it is part of the central and state governments and it has a responsibility.