FM in­vokes Indira and Ra­jiv to turn ta­bles on Congress

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE -

Fi­nance min­is­ter Arun Jait­ley in­voked the as­sas­si­na­tion of Indira Gandhi and Ra­jiv Gandhi to turn the ta­bles on the Congress as sparks flew in the Ra­jya Sabha on Thurs­day dur­ing a de­bate on the Jawa­har­lal Nehru Univer­sity ( JNU) row.

The min­is­ter men­tioned the sac­ri­fices of the two PMs who were killed by ter­ror­ists — cited also by the Congress to thwart ri­vals’ ques­tion­ing its na­tion­al­ism — and said, “That pre­cisely should have been the rea­son for you ( Congress) to speak more vig­or­ously against the of­fences in JNU. At least on this is­sue, we ex­pected you to be with us.”

The JNU cam­pus was not a “sov­er­eign ter­ri­tory” like a for­eign em­bassy that po­lice could not en­ter, Jait­ley said. “Sedi­tion has be­come free speech. Can hate speech ever be called free speech? Can sedi­tion be free speech? Can you have a free speech to say I have the right to break the coun­try into pieces?” he asked the Op­po­si­tion benches.

In the Up­per House, where the govern­ment is in mi­nor­ity, the Congress, Left par­ties, the NCP and other Op­po­si­tion out­fits lashed out at the gover nment. CPI(M) gen­eral sec­re­tary Si­taram Yechury, who cut his political teeth at JNU, charged the govern­ment with sup­press­ing dis­sent on cam­puses to foist its idea of a “theo­cratic, fascis­tic Hindu Rash­tra” on the coun­try.

Leader of the Op­po­si­tion Ghu­lam Nabi Azad com­pared the BJP’s bid to “teach” na­tion­al­ism to a young bird that had seen snow­fall for the first time and thought it to be the sever­est win­ter, de­spite the mother telling it that wasn’t the case.

Jait­ley pointed to a Par­lia­ment ques­tion of 1983 in which the then (Indira Gandhi) govern­ment jus­ti­fied the en­try of po­lice in the JNU cam­pus to ar­rest 350 stu­dents, in­clud­ing 50 women, as the vice-chan­cel­lor was gheraoed. The govern­ment has come un­der se­vere crit­i­cism for send­ing po­lice to the JNU cam­pus to ar­rest stu­dent leader Kanhaiya Ku­mar and slap­ping sedi­tion charges on him.

Jait­ley tar­geted Congress vice- pres­i­dent Rahul Gandhi and main­tained his visit to the JNU cam­pus af­ter the con­tro­ver­sial protest pro­vided “re­spectabil­ity” to a move­ment that had the aim to “break In­dia”.

Sedi­tion has be­come free speech. Can hate speech ever be called free speech? Can sedi­tion be free speech? Can you have a free speech to say I have the right to break the coun­try into pieces?

ARUN JAIT­LEY, Union fi­nance min­is­ter

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