Honorable Chairman Sir, I rise today to speak against the motion, and in support of the amendments moved by my party. Far too many of our citizens today languish in jail, or bear the burden of judicial and police harassment, simply for asking questions to this government, or choosing to voice our opinions on the state of affairs in our country. So I as a parliamentarian, garbed in parliamentary privilege, now choose to use this platform that the people have given me, to ask questions that the people want to ask, so that this government may know that arresting and attacking voices may not hold. I trust my honorable colleagues will not shout me down, and that you, Chairman Sir, will let me speak for the entirety of my allotted time, and that the Rajya Sabha TV, paid forward by taxpayers money will not turn the screens off.
The words of Journalist Elma Davis for America are just as relevant for the celebration of the 72nd anniversary of our republic. That this republic was not created by cowards, and cowards will not preserve it. So today I speak of cowardice and courage, and the difference between the two, of those cowards who hide behind the false bravado of authority, power, hate, bigotry, untruths, and dare to call it ‘courage’. After all, this government has turned disinformation and propaganda into a cottage industry, whose biggest success is recasting cowardice as courage. I will lay out various instances where this government has shown ‘courage’. The government claims that they have brought in a law that questions in arbitrary parameters, who is or isn’t a citizen. The CAA was passed in this House on the grounds of providing citizenship to persecuted Hindus and other minorities in neighbouring countries. At the same time, it threw into an abyss of insecurity millions of Indians who have been living in this country for generations. But the rules by which this act will be implemented were not yet prepared by December 2020, according to the home ministry, and has been postponed to April 2021. If indeed this government cares so much for those persecuted in the neighbouring countries, why does it miss deadline by deadline to notify these rules? And meanwhile, very many of us have gathered the courage to say ‘kaagaz Nahi dikhayenge’.
Trying to exert central influence over Shantiniketan is not going to change your colours. Only a small portion of Jana Gana Mana was adopted as our National Anthem. I ask the government to read the rest of it. Maybe it will help you understand Tagore, as you call him, and Bengal, a little better. My colleague, the respected floor leader of the Congress party happened to quote these very words, but I think repeating them will do some good, ‘Hail Unity! Hail Religious Diversity!’ The courage to make India the world’s greatest democracy into a virtual police state, whereby a single dubious complaint, both on an eminent member of the house, as well as one of India’s veteran journalist is charged with sedition? The courage to try and take over every state by hook or crook, whether you have won the popular mandate or not. You claimed you were wedded to constructive cooperation and cooperative federalism. Instead of partnering with state governments, you try and muscle them out at every opportunity. Does the ruling party wish that its legacy be that it governed the largest democracy in the world or that it imposed the one-party rule in India, ask yourselves?
The courage to announce a national lockdown at only four hours notice, causing untold misery, thousand deaths, the sight of thousands walking for hundreds of miles with no food or money. This government spent less than two per cent on social transfers, in contrast to OECD countries which spent two per cent and six per cent which was spent by middle-income countries.
The courage, no, the brazen audacity, to announce an economic rebound? India was the single worst performer among the developing countries in 2020. Even if we believe this government’s economic survey, this economy was dropped by 7.7per cent in 2020, and will rise by eleven per cent in 2021. So in effect, by 2022, that is over a two year time span, the economy will be flat, just at the 2019 GDP. The survey proclaims that growth is the biggest alleviator. Honorable members of this House, we are going to have no growth for two whole years. I don’t understand the celebration.
I come from a rural constituency, and a source of migrant workers. The distress in the MSME sectors is real, where large enterprises have become stronger. It is not V-shaped, it is K-shaped. 1per cent of rich citizen have become richer, and the pains of MSMEs have only increased. The government had the courage to say that they gave 130000 crore by DBT scheme. Only to take the same money away from those very same people, ad middle class in the way of increase cess in petrol and diesel. We are not a nation that is growing and sharing its wealth. We seem to be a nation that is only finding ways to share our poverty. The hype today is that post-budget the sensex jumped, in a country where only 6crore pay taxes, only 4.6per cent of the total population. How many do you think are investing in this sensex that they should jump for joy? The courage to use official channels of the ministry of external affairs to respond to social media posts by an eighteen-year-old climate activist and an American pop star? Where not even one single ministry has been deputed to make sure food, water for the farmers protesting for ninety days? And finally, the courage to bring in three farm laws when the opposition, farmers across the country, as well as the government’s oldest ally, warned it was unacceptable.
I wish to remind this government that India under Lal Bahadur Shastri committed three things to Fateh Singh, the akali leader: The creation for Punjabi Speaking state, open-ended public procurement, and an assured return on agricultural produce. The farmers are now threatened by being snatched of two of these guarantees. These laws were arrived at without consensus, tabled without scrutiny, and rammed down this nation’s throat with the brute force of Treasury benches. They have firmly established this government’s motto of brutality over morality, and everyone else in this country has been portrayed as a coward or a terrorist. From farmers to students to old ladies of Shaheen Bagh. You say you have courage? You claim you have done so many things that no other government before you has done. Yes, that is true, in true fascist fashion you have named every act of pettiness, vengeance, of hate, bigotry part of your narrative of courage. The reason no one has done it before you not because no one had the courage, but simply because it was not the right thing to do. Has that thought ever struck ever you? And India’s tragedy today is, not just that the government has failed her, but that the other democratic pillars like the media and judiciary.
Lord Haine, the labour leader, said in the House of Lords, what is the point of being a member of the Parliament, either in the Commons or in the Lords, if you don’t discharge your responsibilities, and where appropriate use the powers that you have in order to promote justice and liberty. So today like a true child of Bengal, I will stand here and be courageous. Even though the government will later portray me as a coward or a plagiarist, I will lay out a few home truths, by using the parliamentary privilege that guards me from sedition and contempt from anything I say in the house. And mr. Law Minister sir if you are present on the premises with all due respect, you have neither the right to shut me up, nor to expunge my words. The sacred cow that was the judiciary is no longer sacred. It stopped when the sitting Chief Justice of India was accused of sexual harassment, presided over his own trial, and proceeded to accept a nomination to Upper House within three months. It leads our migrant workers to walk to their deaths, it leads our greatest activists and modern writers went to jail, and now sits as a mute spectator when a young is prosecuted for cracking a joke.
The judiciary has forgotten the principle of separation of power, that parliament and only parliament can legislate. If something is bad in law, then court can strike it down or stay it as unconstitutional. But unless it is so, the courts must do nothing; the government alone must face consequences. Either government will repeal the laws, or the people will vote the government out. We urgently need the audacity of high courts in an emergency when they delivered ADM Jabalpur and like decisions. The SC, unfortunately, is failing the common people, and is perceived as protecting the privilege, and ironically, only itself. A very large section media has went to new depths, both for absence of factual reporting as well as the total absence of ethics. And even when the bar is so law, the whatsapp chats of Arnab expose the utter filth and crony capitalism that the government wanted to save us from. What is left under the resilient media is charged under UAPA and other laws.
You taunt Congress about emergency, but we are now in an undeclared emergency. The government has miscalculated. The coward is brave only when armed with power and authority, the courageous are even when they are unarmed. Don’t forget this when you tell authorities in Ghaziabad to clear the protest site overnight. You are being courageous, you are coward. The brave came from villages with nothing but they believe that their cause is just. They were propelled by the tears of their leader, not by water cannons. Don’t forget this when you cut the internet in seventeen districts of Haryana. You are not being brave, you are coward. The state gives ten per cent of India’s air force, eleven per cent to Navy. They can’t be named anti-national or terrorist. Don’t forget this when a peaceful sixety days protest is insidiously hijacked and then you slap FIRs on Punjab farmers.
That momentous day has arrived. In the 125th year of Bose, the central government has made every attempt to hijack Netaji into their own fake courage. But this nation needs to know that he had two clarion calls – one is Jai Hind, Today the government has replaced this greeting with a narrow religious chant that it uses as a war cry to heckle, to bully and remind the minorities about who is in charge. His second call was Delhi Chalo, this government falls over itself to pay lip service to Netaji. But in truth, you blocked borders at singhu, Ghazipur who wanted to come to Delhi to tell you that like Netaji they won’t accept halfway house. Netaji told us never to lose faith in destiny, and it is not in our destiny to be ruled by cowards, the time has come to show courage. Repeal or Nothing!