Mumbai’s anti-migrant clashes echo in parliament

April 16th, 2008 - 4:15 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Shivraj Patil

New Delhi, April 16 (IANS) The anti-migrant clashes that erupted in Mumbai and elsewhere in Maharashtra earlier this year generated much heat in parliament Wednesday, with Home Minister Shivraj Patil finding himself on the back foot when asked whether he was proud to be a Maharashtrian. “A member wants to know what pride I have. I am proud to be an Indian,” Patil stated during question hour in the Rajya Sabha in reply to a pointed query from Manohar Joshi of the Shiv Sena.

“Are you not proud of being a Maharashtrian?” Joshi, a former chief minister of the state, asked.

“I am proud of India and Maharashtra is a part of India,” Patil replied.

Prior to this exchange, Joshi maintained that it was “wrong” to say that there was an anti-migrant movement in Mumbai and other cities of Maharashtra.

“There is no anti-migrant drive in Maharashtra,” he maintained, leading to vociferous protests from Left and Samajwadi Party members.

Joshi, however, chose to add fuel to the fire.

“I want to ask the minister whether he believes in the theory of priority of local people for jobs and whether he believes in the pride of a state, whether it is Maharashtra or Gujarat or any other,” he asked, leading to the exchange with the home minister.

Raising the issue, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) member Najma Heptullah stressed the need for restoring calm, “otherwise Maharashtrian women who marry outside will feel threatened”.

“We are all Indians. If we live in Maharashtra, we are also Maharashtrians,” Heptullah, a former deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, added.

According to Mohsina Kidwai of the Congress, the situation following the clashes was “alarming” as “the unity of the country is at stake”.

Noting that 1,575 people had been arrested and that 363 cases had been registered, she said all those convicted should be barred from contesting elections.

Abu Hashim Azmi of the Samajwadi Party wanted to know why Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray’s nephew Raj Thackeray, whose breakaway Maharashtra Navnirman Sena has been blamed for the violence targeting migrants from north India, was being treated like a “hero” instead of being jailed.

“Even the Supreme Court has ruled against the ’sons of soil’ theory but Thackeray continues to promote this,” Azmi maintained.

Raj Thackeray was arrested Feb 13 on charges of promoting enmity between groups. He was quickly released on bail, an event that was broadcast live by many TV news channels. Azmi too was arrested on the same charges the same day.

Sharad Yadav (Janata Dal-U) termed the home minister’s reply as a “lie”, prompting Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari to say: “Please be careful with your language.”

So incensed were the MPs that the issue took up more than half the time allotted for question hour. As Ansari moved on to the next question, Jaya Bachchan and Shahid Siddique (both Samajwadi Party) were on their feet, demanding they be given a chance to speak.

“Why am I not being allowed to speak?” Bachchan demanded.

“One member of your party has spoken,” Ansari replied firmly and moved on to the next question.

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