In an impassioned speech in Lok Sabha packed with facts, Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani gave a stunning reply to her political critics who have been trying to corner her over research scholar Rohith Vemula’s suicide and the recent events in JNU. Her speech laid bare the political charlatans who project themselves as the guardians of social justice and secularism in this country.
We will provide the breakdown of what the Union Minister said in a 3 part series. This first part will cover the politics around the suicide of Rohith Vemula; the second part will talk about the events in JNU; the third part will cover what Smriti Irani said about the insidious assault on Bharat’s education system by Sonia Gandhi led UPA and its deep impact on the Hindu psyche.
Smriti Irani on charges that she only responds to issues raised by NDA/BJP MPs
- Those who question my integrity need to know the following – an idea is created that HRD ministry only responds to the questions raised by her fellow ministers. Between 1/5/2014 to 23/2/2016 my ministry received 67,230 grievances of ordinary citizens. I managed to solve and respond to 61,892 of these queries. I did not ask which caste or religion they belonged to, or which party they voted for.
- Some mock us as a ‘Sanghi’ party and a Government which keeps minorities insecure. One Kashmiri Muslim student Iqbal Rasool Dar had written a complaint to me that he was not getting his scholarship & fellowship – I got his issue resolved within one month and ensured the student receives his fellowship dues.
At this point there were loud interruptions by Opposition members, to which she said “You accuse us of intolerance, be tolerant and hear my answer. Or should I claim to be a victim of my circumstances and say that I am a woman married to a micro-minority (Smriti’s husband Zubin Irani is a Parsi), and hence you disallow me to speak in this House? Do not play your politics with me. Let me give you an answer today that I have patiently waited for days to give.”
- I will today address the allegation hurled at me by some members that with which authority do I write letters to Universities. I receive many letters from Parliamentarians – Hanumantha Rao ji is not an MP from my party, he is a Congress MP. He wrote a letter to me and said that there is a need for justice in Hyderabad University. He said that it was under the tenure of the Vice Chancellor appointed by the UPA government that Dalit students committed suicide. Hanumantha Rao had urged me to take action and launch a probe. We (HRD ministry) had written multiple letters to the University of Hyderabad on this matter – on 9 Dec 2014, 4 Sept 2015, 30 Sept 2015, 6 Oct 2015, 20 Oct 2015, 19 Nov 2015, 6 Jan 2016.
- Whether a parliamentarian belongs to Congress or any other party, we answer everyone and try to meet their hopes and expectations. And some members ask me on what authority do I write letters to universities? I have always tried to resolve issues irrespective of the complainant’s caste, creed or religion.
At this point, there were loud interruptions and some opposition MPs walked out of the House. The HRD minister said, “I am not going to apologize for doing my duty. If you want to leave, you may do so. You never wanted to listen to my response, you never had the intention to do so. You don’t have the courage to listen to what I have to say. You just want to do your politics. Listen to what I have to say, if you have the courage to do so.”
- Our ministry responded to letters from the following MPs, none of whom are from BJP – Asaduddin Owaisi from MIM, Kerala CM Oomen Chandy from Congress, and Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. Today Sugata Bose (from TMC) is not here, but his party MP Saugata Roy and Congress MP Pradip Bhattacharya wrote letters to us that Vishva Bharati established by Rabindranath Tagore saw a man accused of sexual harassment appointed as VC by the previous Congress Government. These people still expected justice from the NDA Government, and it is our duty to listen to their requests. Yet, today I am accused of discriminatory behavior?
Smriti Irani on the Political Games Over Rohith Vemula’s death
- Some parties are playing political games over the death of a child [Rohith Vemula]. But does the country know that every member of the University Executive Council which took the decision to suspend Rohith Vemula was appointed by UPA, not the present government? That same Executive Council, seeing that it did not have any Dalit faculty member, decided to co-opt a Dalit faculty. The chief warden, who is himself a Dalit, communicated the Council’s decision to the students (including Rohith) and counseled them.
- This issue should not be looked at from the lens of caste – this is the matter involving a student. My name is Smriti Irani – can you identify my caste from my name? I am disturbed today because being a mother, I am pained at being accused of murdering a child (Rohith).
- I’ll tell you how the death of Rohith has been used as a political weapon. As soon as I got the news of Rohith Vemula’s suicide, I called Shri KCR [CM of Telangana], to ensure that law and order is maintained, as that is a State subject. I was told, “Sir is busy right now.” I never issued a public statement against the CM thinking that he will call back, but he never called back. I have a call record to prove this – I even spoke to his daughter about the matter.
- According to a police report submitted to the Telangana high court, the police was informed about Rohith’s death at 7:20 pm; when they rushed to the University hostel, they found the room open and the dead body had already been taken down from where it was hanging and kept on a table; a hand written suicide note was found which did not blame anybody and specifically stated “No one is responsible for my death”.
At this point a TRS MP interjected, and said that after receiving Smriti Irani’s call, KCR (chief of TRS and the Telangana CM) had called Police Intelligence to enquire about the matter. He claimed that they had asked the Union Government and the PM to arrest MP Bandaru Dattatreya (Minister of Labour and Employment) in order to calm the mob which was preventing Rohith’s body from being taken away from the University.
Smriti Irani pointed out the absurdity in the TRS MP’s statement that Bandaru Dattareya should be arrested (without any due process of law) just to control a mob and to maintain law & order. [Some political parties and groups have alleged that it is a letter to HRD Ministry by Bandaru Dattatreya expressing concern over student politics in UoH that ultimately led to Rohith Vemula’s suicide. Read this piece to know more about the case.]
- The police report says no one allowed a doctor near Rohith, to revive him, or to take him to a hospital. His body was used a political tool. From 7.20 PM at night to 6.30 AM the next morning, the Telangana police was not allowed to take his body to a doctor. Who was medically equipped to declare Rohith dead? There are several cases in which those who attempt suicide are successfully revived by doctors. Who tried to help Rohith?
- Has anyone ever seen Rahul Gandhi go to the same spot twice? When 600 students died for the Telangana movement, did he go once? No, but in the case of Rohith he saw a political opportunity. Rohith says in his suicide note that he doesn’t blame anyone, yet you choose to use his death for your own political ends. That is the tragedy.