Ministry of External Affairs carries out ‘technical correction’ after Meenakshi Lekhi objects to her name in Parliament question on Hamas

Fellow Minister of State Muraleedharan’s reply on Hamas in Lok Sabha went in Ms. Lekhi’s name

December 09, 2023 08:52 am | Updated December 10, 2023 01:09 am IST

Minister of State for External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi addresses the media at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on December 9, 2023.

Minister of State for External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi addresses the media at the BJP headquarters in New Delhi on December 9, 2023. | Photo Credit: R.V. Moorthy

Hours after Minister of State for External Affairs Meenakshi Lekhi claimed that she had not signed the response to a Parliament question on Hamas that carried her name, and sought an inquiry into the “breach”, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) swung into action and said that a “technical correction” was being carried out. The incident has brought to light the internal discussion on Hamas that has been taking place within the government since the Gaza conflict erupted in October.

“We have noted that Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No. 980 answered on December 8, 2023 needs a technical correction in terms of reflecting Shri V. Muraleedharan as the Minister of State replying to the Parliament Question. This is being suitably undertaken,” said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.

The controversy was triggered when Congress MP K. Sudhakaran posed a question in the Lok Sabha. “Whether the Government has any proposal to declare Hamas as a terrorist organisation in India,” he asked, also querying whether Israel had asked India to make such a declaration.

The written response, carried under the name of “Smt. Meenakshi Lekhi” stated: “Designation of an organisation as terrorist is covered under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and declaring any organisation as terrorist is considered as per the provisions of the Act by the relevant government departments.”

‘Investigate the breach’

Posting on X (formerly Twitter), Ms. Lekhi said: “I have not signed any paper with this question and this answer.” She also tagged the social media accounts of External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Ms. Lekhi again highlighted in a press interaction at BJP headquarters. “I want to tell everyone that I have not signed any such paper related to that question. I’ve reported this breach to PMO and S. Jaishankar and made a phone call to the Foreign Secretary [Vinay Mohan Kwatra] and told them to investigate and actions should be taken against those who have done this,” Ms. Lekhi said.

Also Read | Hamas and its supporters are ‘beyond belief’ 

Cautious stance

Israel has been trying to persuade India to declare Hamas as a terrorist organisation, Israeli ambassador Naor Gilon has said recently. However, New Delhi has not formally denounced Hamas as a terror group. From the beginning, India has maintained that the October 7 attack on Israel was a “terror strike”, without clarifying whether that made Hamas a terrorist organisation.

The Parliament answer was reflective of the cautious position that India has maintained since the beginning of the latest round of the Israel-Palestine conflict, which was triggered on October 7 after Hamas attacked Israel.

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