I thought this was an important speech by a left member of the Rajya Sabha in response to the prime minister's speech on the Anna Hazare led agitation and the government's response initially. Reproducing this directly.
(This is an edited version of the speech given in Rajya Sabha by Brinda Karat in response to PM’s statement on 17th August 2011)
RESPONSE IN RAJYA SABHA TO PM STATEMENT ON ARREST OF ANNA HAZARE
Sir, going through the statement of the Hon’ble Prime Minister, I can only say that this statement adds salt to the wounds which have been inflicted on the polity of this country by the authoritarian and undemocratic actions of the UPA government in the last two days. What we have seen on the streets of Delhi is a blatant assault on the democratic rights of citizens of this country granted to them by the Constitution of India to peaceful protest. Going by what the Hon’ble Prime Minister has said, it seems that he wants to add a new chapter to the fairytales which this country has been fed by the Home Minister. We have been subjected to statements by the Home Minister who wants the nation to believe that the arrest of Anna Hazare is not a political decision of the government, there have been no discussions at the higher levels of the government abput it. The government has been closing its eyes to what is happening on the streets of this country saying that the entire responsibility is that of the Delhi Police to take action on something which obviously requires political action. If this is indeed true, if it is the Delhi Police, in fact which has been taking the action, then one can only say and accuse this government of the worst type of dereliction of duty. You have withdrawn from your duty of intervening on an issue which has enraged and outraged the mass of people of this country. But we know, sir, that this is a fairytale. We know that it is the Government which decided to browbeat the group of protesters led by Anna Hazare who had appealed to the Prime Minister himself. They knew that ultimately it will have to be a political decision to allow them to exercise their democratic right to protest. On both these issues – on the aspect of the political decision which was required and on the aspect of ensuring that the democratic rights of the citizens are protected in this country – this government has utterly failed. Therefore, sir, we strongly condemn the government and regret that the Prime Minister’s statement is so insensitive to this assault on democratic rights.
The second issue which the Prime Minister’s statement has raised is that of civil society challenging Parliament. The Government’s contention is that once a Bill is sent to the Standing Committee it is the property of parliament and to challenge it is to challenge parliament. I am simply amazed at the selective amnesia of this government. Have there not been occasions in the past when there have been Bills in Parliament and there have been protests outside? Have you forgotten what happened with the Women’s Reservation Bill? Sir, it happened twice. First it went to a Select Committee and then it went to a Standing Committee. Were there not protests outside Parliament against the Women’s Reservation Bill at that time ? Did we hear a single Minister stand up in this House and say that that was an attack on Parliament; that they were trying to hold Parliament to ransom; and that they were defying Parliament? Don’t try to feed us these stories. The people of India are not going to accept it. You are bringing in all kinds of Bills using your brute majority to push them through with some help from `the friends’ on the right. Which are all those Bills that you are bringing in Parliament? The Bank Privatisation Bill and the Insurance FDI Bill. We know that you (the BJP) are going to help them. Then, of course, there will be a “consensus in Parliament”. Of course, they (the BJP) are going to do it. But I want to say and I want to assert the right of the people of this country to protest against these Bills, because it shows that this government is captive to corporates. You are a Government which is captive to corporates. You kowtow to corporates and you treat civil society with contempt and send them to jail. This is the message which this Government is giving.
Therefore, the second point that I want to make is, yes, civil society, mass organisations, and trade unions of workers or peasants have every right to protest. If weak and ineffective, as in case of Lokpal, and blatantly anti-poor legislative drafts are brought to the Standing Committees, we will protest, and we will force this government to hear the voice of the people. Bring an effective and strong Bill against corruption.
The third issue is that the Prime Minister has talked about the great majesty of Parliament. Very lofty statements are made. It is this government, sir, which has shown utmost contempt for Parliament. Please look at the statement of the Prime Minister. It says, “Notwithstanding the introduction of the Bill….” and then “…extensive consultations and discussions, including deliberations in a Joint Drafting Committee and a meeting of all political parties represented..” Why do you want to mislead the House? What is this meeting of the political parties that you called? First of all you insulted political parties by sending political parties a questionnaire on the issues of Lok Pal in which you said `yes’ or `no’. The questions were: Do you agree with this? State `yes’ or `no’. Do you not agree with this? State `yes’ or `no’. Is this the way you respect the political parties who are represented in this House? We do not agree to the framework of your drafting committee. We have our own opinion. But is that the way you treat the opinions of political parties? You call that `discussion with political parties’! You insulted political parties. You had a Drafting Committee. Did you ask anybody about it? Did you include any of the representatives of political parties in this House? Who is contemptuous of Parliament? It is you. Who had sent the Finance Minister, your senior-most Minister after the Prime Minister, to the airport with red carpet and flowers to greet a particular swamiji? Who did it? It is you who did it. You held Parliament in contempt by doing that. Now you are making the same accusation. Who will believe you?
After spinning such fairy tales, at night, suddenly the `prince charming’ comes and you have a political spin and you inform all the TV channels that there was a high level meeting and all the wrong things are going to be rectified because of the intervention of the Congress General Secretary But your tales and your cover-up were thoroughly exposed, because the conditions that you placed in the morning when you arrested Anna Hazare are the same conditions that you placed at night when you came with the so-called release order for him and therefore he refused to play your game and come out of jail. Therefore, we say, sir, stop this charade. Don’t use the shoulders of Parliament to shoot at people. It’s not going to work. Release Anna Hazare and his colleagues unconditionally.
The Parliament and all MPs in this House know their rights. We don’t require you to defend them. You should take action against who are corrupt in your own government. We have not seen the end of scams. What is the KG gas basin scam of the Petroleum Ministry? What has happened with the Air India, the sell-off of Air India? There are more scams which are waiting to be unearthed, or peeled, like the onion peels, one after another, 2G, commonwealth games, now KG Basin, Air India, you cannot escape…. I know there are many in the Congress Party today who are deeply dismayed at what is happening. They may not be able to speak here in Parliament. But, we have heard them speaking in private conversations. We know their opinions. They are deeply dismayed. We understand that. We are not saying that everybody in the ruling party or Treasury Benches shares what is happening. But, the fact of the matter is that this government has established a record of being corrupt, of being arrogant and now of being inept. You are defending corporates. Parliament is not going to sit silent when you give a big business house such rights to subvert all rules and regulations.
I have only two points left. I want to say in this House that don’t divide civil society. You divide everybody. We know how you play one against the other. Don’t divide civil society. Don’t select that these people are good because they are from the NAC and they accept what you say. Don’t do that. I have great respect for my friends in the NAC but don’t privilege one section of civil society and send the other section of the civil society to jail. That is not going to be appreciated by this country. Don’t have double standards. (Interruptions) Sir, I am saying, do not have double standards in dealing with citizens of this country. (Interruptions) If you have double standards in dealing with citizens of this country, people are not going to take that.
Lastly sir, the Prime Minister has talked about certain forces. I will read that sentence. It says, “There are many forces that would not like to see India realize its true place in the comity of nations”. I would really request the Prime Minister to please spell out who are these forces. We have seen these forces. We have seen these forces and their representatives, in the name of strategic alliance, come to India and their Secretary of State come here and tell the Parliament that you have passed a law, the Nuclear Liability Act, but it is a wrong one so change it. Is that not contempt of Parliament? Will the Government accept that? (Interruptions) Sir, in whose hands is this government playing? Therefore, defend India, defend the sovereignty of India and don’t bow down before corruption and don’t use Parliament’s shoulder to shoot at the people of this country. It will not be accepted. Bring a strong Lok Pal Bill. With these words, we reject the statement of the Prime Minister. Thank you.