hidden image

Open Letter to Speaker: Claimants for Mascots of Hate

A. J. Philip A. J. Philip
02 Oct 2023

Dear Shri Om Birla Ji, 

As a policy, I do not sign online petitions ever since I read that such petitions are ways to gather email addresses of a large number of people for potential commercial use. Earlier this week, I made an exception when I signed such a petition addressed to you, seeking disciplinary action against a Member of Parliament who used unparliamentary language against a fellow MP. I am not sure whether the letter was finally dispatched to you. 

Anyway, I thought I would write a letter to you to express my concern over the incident, which would have shocked tens of millions of people all over the country. I was once a resident of Janakpuri, which was part of the South Delhi parliamentary constituency. I remember voting for Dr. Manmohan Singh when he contested for the first and last time in his life. 

In fact, the Congress lost all the seven seats in Delhi. The party could salvage only 114 seats in that election. I really wished that he had got elected because he was an incorruptible gentleman. As governor of the Reserve Bank, he had been given an official phone at his residence. His wife and daughters could use the phone, but they were expected to note down the numbers they called so that he could pay for them from his pocket. 

I had heard stories of the great engineer M. Visvesvaraya, whose birthday is celebrated as Engineers’ Day. He used to keep two kerosene lamps. One he used to do official work and the other to do his personal work. He is venerated in Sri Lanka and Tanzania also. Manmohan Singh is the only person I know who approximated Visvesvaraya in probity. 

Alas, today South Delhi is represented by the BJP’s Ramesh Bidhuri. But for a video clip that I happened to watch, I would not have known about him. I do not know why the Bahujan Samaj Party member Danish Ali objected to some observations he made. 

Ali says that Bidhuri made some comments on Prime Minister Narendra Modi which showed him in a poor light. I do not believe that Bidhuri could have survived in the party by painting Modi into a corner. Nobody has the guts to do so in the BJP. That privilege is reserved for Satya Pal Malik who was the last Governor of Jammu and Kashmir! 

Whatever the provocation, Bidhuri asked Ali to sit down and called him a “pimp”, a “militant,” a “terrorist,” an “anti-national,” etc. If Bidhuri had looked around, he would have found a lady member who has not yet been exonerated of the charge of terrorism and who spent years in jail sitting on the treasury benches. 

As Speaker, you had allowed the publication of a booklet listing all the possible unparliamentary words. These even included words like “ashamed, abused, betrayed, corrupt, drama, hypocrisy, incompetent” etc. You are no longer an ordinary Speaker. You alone are the custodian of the Sengol that you installed near your seat in the new Parliament building. God knows what the purpose of the Sengol is. 

Modi’s attempt was to please the voters of Tamil Nadu by installing a stick whose worth can be easily measured by the value of the metal used for its making. However, the AIADMK has triple-talaqed the BJP. 

While addressing the five-day session in the new Parliament building, Modi exhorted the members to use only good language in the House. My first thought was: why did Modi think it necessary to give such an exhortation? Was it fair to use bad language in the old building because it was built by the British, who probably did not follow Vaastu Shastra? 

What I quoted were not the only words that Bidhuri used against Ali. He used pejorative words that are particularly used against Muslim men. I cannot mention them here because this letter will be made available in the public domain. 

When I heard him, I remembered a Malayalam expression, “meen chantha” (fish market). I have gone several times to such markets and I never heard anyone using the language he used. 

I thought the person sitting in the Speaker’s chair would have stopped him from using such derogatory words against a fellow member. Nothing of the sort happened. 

Instead, I saw two “gentlemen” and former Union ministers — Ravi Shankar Prasad and Dr Harsh Vardhan — enjoying Bidhuri’s speech and laughing over it. One was the Law Minister of the country. His father was with the RSS, and he grew up in the RSS. I do not know much about the other gentleman except that he was virtually invisible when the country was in the grip of Corona, and tens of thousands of migrant workers were forced to walk from cities like Delhi and Mumbai to their villages in UP, Bihar, MP, and Maharashtra. 

It was the crassest laughter that I ever encountered. Misplaced laughter can indeed be dangerous. I am sure you know that the proximate cause of the great Mahabharata war was laughter. 

As you know, Duryodhana visited the new house the Pandavas built for themselves. The mansion was built by Mayasura at Indraprastha, built by Vishwa Karma. When Duryodhana visited the palace, he found one hall filled with water. So he raised his clothes only to realise that there was no water. In the next hall, there was water, and assuming that there was no water, he stepped into the hall only to get drenched.  

Draupadi, who was the common wife of the Pandavas, saw Duryodhana fully drenched. She could not resist her laughter. What’s worse, she made a remark that he was the son of a blind man and that is why he could not distinguish water from floor and floor from water. The head of the Kauravas had never felt insulted so much. Eventually, this led to the Great War. 

I thought this incident, too, would lead to some action. All you did was to expunge his remarks from the records of the Lok Sabha. Expunging words is not a solution. MPs speak to their constituencies when they address Parliament. Their personal staff knows when they speak, and this information is passed on to their constituents so that they can watch online when their MPs speak. 

I remember watching Lok Sabha TV when Congress leader Rahul Gandhi addressed the House soon after his membership in the House was restored following a Supreme Court verdict. I think I saw you more than the MP from Wayanad in Kerala. It seemed like the Lok Sabha TV authorities did not want to show the not-so-young MP on the TV screen. 

The point I wanted to make is that expunging remarks from the Lok Sabha records won't serve any purpose when the speech reached tens of millions of people in the country. Of course, the BJP has sought an explanation from Bidhuri. I don't know why an explanation is necessary when there is video-graphic evidence of him using abusive words against the BSP member. 

Nothing can justify the use of such words because it is elementary that no person should be abused for the religion he believes in or the language he speaks or the dress he wears. That is one of the cardinal principles of the Indian Constitution. Every citizen is assured of equality. 

The  memorandum I signed sought disciplinary action against Bidhuri. As I write this, I have before me a newspaper clipping that shows a BJP leader filing a criminal case against a person who made derogatory comments about Union Minister Smriti Irani. 

True, an MP gets immunity from legal action for what he says in Parliament. This immunity is given to MPs so that nothing should restrain them from raising issues of public importance in the House. However, this immunity cannot be extended to them when they use abusive words against a community. 

I thought the BJP would censure him for his conduct. Far from that, he has been given the responsibility of the Tonk Assembly constituency. Tonk, a small town near the city of Jaipur, is renowned for its old havelis and mosques. This elegant town was once ruled by the Pathans of Afghanistan and it takes pride in its beautiful architectural wonders, established during the Mughal era. 

Tonk is also famous as the 'city of melons' and has been called 'Rajasthan ka Lucknow’. It is also known as 'Hindu Muslim Ekta ka Maskan.' A man who abused a Muslim MP in Parliament has been chosen to prepare the election strategy of the party in the constituency, where Muslims have a small but notable presence. 

I am not sure whether the BJP sees the election as a contest between 80 percent and 20 percent, as famously described by the UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath. His choice is a reminder that sloganeering against Muslims and other minorities is a sure way to climb up the political ladder in the country. What a sad state of affairs it is! 

Perhaps, the BJP’s core supporters would be enthused by a man they know would go to any extent to attack a rival, especially when he belongs to another community. My research reveals that he is an out-and-out RSS man who has been with the organisation since the imposition of the Emergency on the nation in 1975. That is why I do not expect the BJP to take any stringent action against him, as any action against him will be resented by the hardcore supporters of the BJP.

It was just two months ago that Modi exhorted his party members to organise Sneh Yatras (journeys of love) to Muslim localities. He wanted to win the confidence of the Pasmanda Muslims, i.e., those who are at the bottom of Muslim society. It is Modi's desire that has been undermined by Bidhuri's brazen behaviour. 

The recent five-day session of Parliament will go down in history as one of the most significant ones. First, it was held in a brand new building. Second, the Women’s Reservation Bill was passed almost unanimously by the two Houses. 

The session was held against the backdrop of the great feat accomplished by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) when an Indian vehicle landed flawlessly on the lunar surface. Only America, Russia, and China have such an achievement to their credit. 

Rightly or wrongly, Modi also claimed that India was the mother of democracy. What happens in Parliament is now watched by people all over the world. True, Muslim countries have not reacted to Bidhuri’s abuse of Danish Ali because they don’t want to interfere in the internal affairs of the country. 

That does not mean that they would not be surprised by the kind of language used against a member, whose only fault Bidhuri found was that he was a Muslim. Imagine, Sir, how you would have reacted if someone abused a Hindu member for his caste or religious affiliation? 

I am surprised that you took his misconduct lightly. You are known as a stickler for rules, and you are quick to take action. I remember what you did to the leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha. 

In retrospect, do you think the act of indiscipline for which you suspended Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury was worse than the crass use of abusive words by Bidhuri? Did it ever occur to you that every minority community in India, not to mention well-meaning Hindus themselves, would have been upset by his speech? 

It is up to you to set the record right by taking disciplinary action against Ramesh Bidhuri. Otherwise, people will construe your silence as an approval of what he did. Please remember that the party on whose ticket you won from Kota-Bundi in Rajasthan wants India to become a Vishwa Guru. Needless to say, the behaviour of a guru must be guru-like. 

Yours etc 


Recent Posts

The recently concluded Assembly elections of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana and Mizoram have been of great interest for various reasons
apicture Ram Puniyani
11 Dec 2023
One standard comment I have been hearing across the political and social spectrum is that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
apicture A. J. Philip
11 Dec 2023
The Congress's downfall is closely tied to its unquestionable devotion to the Gandhi family.
apicture Chhotebhai
11 Dec 2023
The Global Hunger Index 2023, released on 19 October, places India in the 111th rank out of 125 countries. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) calculates the index.
apicture Dr. M. D. Thomas
11 Dec 2023
After years of allegation over the National Register of Citizens (NRC) update exercise in Assam, the court proceedings begin against the former State coordinator Prateek Hajela
apicture Nava Thakuria
11 Dec 2023
The demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, was that seminal moment in our national life that inalterably changed the trajectory of our history.
apicture Mathew John
11 Dec 2023
It is an exciting reality to feel that we are all pearls. Pearl is a beautiful thing made or formed in nature.
apicture P. A. Joseph
11 Dec 2023
India could have won, despite losing the World Cup final! What an opportunity they had of winning
apicture Robert Clements
11 Dec 2023
Data from the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Change Service reveals that the average global temperature between January and October 2023 has surpassed all previous records.
apicture Sacaria Joseph
04 Dec 2023
The far-right is running away with the world, having most recently won elections in Argentina and The Netherlands. Even more ominous, Trump leads Biden in the polls and Netanyahu is on the loose.
apicture Mathew John
04 Dec 2023