Political uproar over new list of unparliamentary words

Responding to criticism, Lok Sabha Speaker says no word is banned and list is only a compilation of expunged words

July 14, 2022 10:43 pm | Updated July 15, 2022 01:18 am IST - NEW DELHI

Days before the Monsoon session gets underway, the Lok Sabha Secretariat put out a 50-page document on “unparliamentary expressions”.

Days before the Monsoon session gets underway, the Lok Sabha Secretariat put out a 50-page document on “unparliamentary expressions”. | Photo Credit: PTI

A new compilation of unparliamentary words created a political storm on Thursday, with Opposition parties accusing the Narendra Modi government of “throttling” democracy by trying to “gag” them and Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla clarifying that no word has been banned from use in Parliament.

Responding to the barrage of criticism, Mr. Birla asserted that putting together a list of unparliamentary words is a tradition since 1954 and the latest list merely compiles words that have been found undignified in a specific context and expunged from the records by various Assemblies, Parliaments of Commonwealth countries and the two houses of the Indian Parliament.

“No word has been banned. Members are free to express their views. No one can snatch that right, but it should be as per decorum of Parliament,” the Lok Sabha Speaker told reporters, adding that Opposition members should not mislead the country.

Mr. Birla said words chosen for expunging have been used by members of the ruling party as well and urged the members to maintain the decorum of the House.

The controversy erupted after the Lok Sabha Secretariat, days before the Monsoon session gets underway, put out a 50-page document that listed words like ‘ashamed’, ‘abused’, ‘jumlajeevi’, ‘taanashahi’, ‘betrayed’, ‘Snoopgate’, ‘COVID spreader’, ‘corrupt’, ‘drama’, ‘dictator’, ‘hypocrisy’ and ‘incompetent’ among others as unparliamentary expressions.

Sources said many of the words had been considered unparliamentary even during the Congress-led UPA era and only 62 words were added. However, some of them may be under review.

But Opposition parties viewed the list of expunged words as an attempt to silence them as most words in the list are those that they used to describe the Narendra Modi government.

“New Dictionary for New India,” tweeted former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and put up a photo to define the adjective “unparliamentary”. “Words used in discussion and debates which correctly describe the PM’s handling of the government, now banned from being spoken. Example of an unparliamentary sentence ‘Jumlajeevi Tanashah shed Crocodile Tears when his lies and incompetence were exposed’,” Mr. Gandhi said.

While Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said they would continue to use the words despite the “ban”, Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury shot off a letter to Mr. Birla to keep the list in abeyance as several words of daily use have been put in the list.

“If these words are taken out of the general vocabulary, the very essence and the impact of expression would be minimised... I may also like to point out that this sensitive matter should have been discussed in the Rules Committee where all the political parties are represented. None of the political parties have been consulted on this sensitive matter,” Mr. Chowdhury said in his letter.

“Session begins in a few days. GAG ORDER ISSUED ON MPs. Now, we will not be allowed to use these basic words while delivering a speech in #Parliament: Ashamed. Abused. Betrayed. Corrupt. Hypocrisy. Incompetent. I will use all these words. Suspend me. Fighting for democracy,” Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien tweeted.

The Bahujan Samaj Party’s Danish Ali said that he had used the word ‘jumlajeevi’ as a counter to ‘andolanjeevi’ — Mr. Modi’s jibe at those who regularly protest — on February 9 last year in the Lok Sabha. While the original Lok Sabha TV clip had the word, it has now been muted.

“At this rate MPs will be left with no other option but to use sign language. Bizarre beyond belief,” tweeted Congress leader Manish Tewari.

His Lok Sabha colleague Shashi Tharoor, however, said the compilation included words that have been deemed unparliamentary by various presiding officers and may have been expunged in a specific context.

“So I would treat this list as indicative rather than definitive, I would speak normally and see whether it is applied in a draconian manner to stifle... As always, implementation is the key, not the list itself,” Mr. Tharoor said.

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