NEW DELHI: Both– one a historian and professor and Subhas Chandra Bose’s grand nephew and the other a journalist and fourth time MP from Odisha– spoke without raising the pitch of their voice as they questioned the government’s handling of the JNU incident, the BJP’s definition of nationalism and the police action and use of sedition law.
It is rare that an Opposition MP makes a speech in Parliament taking on the government and even the treasury benches listen in pin drop silence, that too during a heated debate. Lok Sabha witnessed two such instances on Wednesday when Trinamool Congress member Sugata Bose and BJD’s Thatagat Satpathy stole the limelight as the House discussed the JNU incident of February 9 and Rohith Vemula’s suicide.
Both– one a historian and professor and Subhas Chandra Bose’s grand nephew and the other a journalist and fourth time MP from Odisha– spoke without raising the pitch of their voice as they questioned the government’s handling of the JNU incident, the BJP’s definition of nationalism and the police action and use of sedition law. Both the speakers said the issue was an attempt to distract the country from bread and butter issues.
“I am a nationalist… I believe in a kind of nationalism that instils a spirit of selfless service in our people and inspires their creative efforts… I deplore the kind of nationalism espoused by the members of the treasury benches that I find narrow, selfish and arrogant,” said Bose, the third speaker after passions had run high over JNU and Vemula in the House.
Bose further said Rohith’s tragedy should have stirred the collective conscience, including that of the government. “Unfortunately, we have a heartless government. That refuses to listen to the cries of despair coming from the marginalised sections of our society. Instead of assuring social justice to all, the ruling party wishes to use the unrest in our universities to claim a monopoly on nationalism, and tar all of their critics with the brush of anti-nationalism. ”
At one point when there was some disruption with the TMC and Left squabbling, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan appealed to them to allow the House to function saying “he is speaking well.”
Bose, who invoked several icons from Rabindra Nath Tagore to Aurobindo, said the “idea of India is not so brittle as to go away with a few slogans,” referring to alleged anti-national slogans at the JNU event. While at the outset, he condemned the slogans ‘unequivocally’, he said the youth should be allowed freedom to express, be idealistic and think as attacking students and universities “undermined” the legacy of the anti-colonial freedom struggle.
“What must be opposed is the idea of criminalising dissent,” Bose said adding that the “witch hunt was meant to distract nation” from governance issued.
Giving a political twist to his speech, he compared the handling of the situation at the Jadavpur university saying the Mamata government in West Bengal and the university “knew how to de-escalate the tension”.
When he ended his speech, amidst the thumping of desks on the Opposition benches, there was one sound of applause from a member on the ruling side.
Satpathy, who also made a scathing speech, said it was not Afzal Guru that the government was bothering the government but the “appalling economy and the falling rupee” which prompted the government to seek refuge in the JNU row. “Let us not hide behind smokescreens,” he said.
He began his speech by saying nationalism reminded