Ban on dharnas in Parliament precinct sets off a controversy

Opposition members call it yet another attempt to bulldoze dissent; Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla says these circulars are routinely issued 

July 15, 2022 07:21 pm | Updated July 16, 2022 10:42 am IST - New Delhi



A fresh bulletin from the Parliament secretariat ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament prohibiting the members from using the premises for “demonstration, dharna, strike, fast or for the purpose of performing any religious ceremony,” has raised a furore with the Opposition members calling it yet another attempt to bulldoze dissent.

Intervening in the debate, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla sent out a statement saying these circulars are routinely issued. Mr. Birla also urged members to maintain the dignity of Parliament by not using routine information for creating news. The parliamentary officials released copies of similar advisories issued during the Congress-led UPA government. 

Congress general secretary (communication) Jairam Ramesh launched a broadside at the government calling it “vishguru’s” latest salvo - “D(h)arna Mana Hai!” a play on Darna Mana Hai (Not allowed to be afraid). Replying to Mr. Ramesh’s tweet, Trinamool Congress’s Rajya Sabha floor leader Derek O’Brien said, “Every year they issue these notices in #Parliament bulletins. Demonstrations, dharnas, strikes, fast are part of legitimate parliamentary tactics to register protest. No stopping us. However, can you please update me. Didn’t SOMEONE conduct a religious ceremony recently?”

Mr. O’Brien’s Lok Sabha colleague Mahua Moitra elaborated further. “By the way honourable MP Varanasi performed a religious ceremony on top of new Parliament building just four days ago,” Ms. Moitra tweeted. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is an MP from Varanasi.

‘Political right of MPs’

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury called the circular an attempt to “muzzle the soul of India.” “The more useless the government, the more cowardly it is. Such dictatorial orders mock democracy. Protesting in the Parliament House complex is a political right of the MPs,” Mr. Yechury tweeted.

Senior RJD leader Manoj K Jha said the orders like these undermine the very idea of disagreement which is essential part of the parliamentary democracy. “This order is bizarre and shocking. I would urge the government, please stop this brutal assault on the right to protest. We are moving towards Sri Lanka if we continue like this,” Mr. Jha said.

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