Trying to turn the tables on the Opposition and reiterating a long-held Sangh Parivar view, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government on Thursday called for a nation-wide law to restrict conversions. “Let there be anti-conversion laws in all the States and at the Centre also,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said at the end of a three-hour discussion in the Lok Sabha on the “conversion by inducement” of Muslims in Agra.
The discussion was allowed by the Speaker as a “special case” after three adjournments in the pre-lunch session and a meeting between the Government’s floor managers and Opposition leaders in her chamber.
Opposition leaders accused the BJP and its ideological mentor, the RSS, of being complicit in the reported campaign by Hindu outfits to convert Muslims and Christians into Hindus.
Objecting to the Opposition “maligning” the RSS, Mr. Naidu asserted that the “RSS is our mother organisation from which we have taken inspiration”. This triggered an angry outburst from the Opposition which, in turn, brought the BJP members on their feet. Shouting slogans, the Congress led at least half-a-dozen other parties out of the House in a walkout.
Earlier, initiating the discussion, Jyotiraditya Scindia (Congress) listed a series of attempts by the Sangh Parivar in the last six months to strike at India’s composite culture and included External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s call for making the Bhagavad Gita a “national scripture’’ in the list. He also accused the BJP and its affiliates of “changing Indian history, culture and the national identity”.
Wondering if these are the “promised good days”, he said the Prime Minister should reply to the discussion and allay the apprehensions of minorities.
In a surprise change of stance after his morning intervention when he warned that the Agra conversion incident should not be taken lightly, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh in the afternoon said the media was blowing the issue out of proportion. He wondered if newspapers should be allowed to set the agenda for Parliament. However, he did walk out with the other parties in the middle of Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu’s reply.
While Saugata Roy (Trinamool Congress) described the chain of events as similar to what happened in Germany under Hitler when the superiority of the Aryan race was used to divert attention from his failure to provide economic relief, B. Mahtab (Biju Janata Dal) flagged the Orissa law to restrict conversions as a model for replication. Responding to the BJP’s reference of temples being demolished in medieval India, he said, “This is not the middle ages.”
Taking a dig at the Swachch Bharat campaign of the Government, Mohd. Salim (Communist Party of India-Marxist) said, “Clean India will not happen just by holding brooms; you need to clean your mindset also.”