'Modi Gov't Has Gone Democrazy, Silencing Opposition Voices': Suspended Parliamentarian

Priyanka Chaturvedi - Sputnik International, 1920, 20.12.2021
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The upper house chairman suspended 12 parliamentarians at the start of the ongoing winter session of parliament, which began on 29 November and lasts until 23 December. They were suspended for unruly conduct in the previous session in August. This is also one of the biggest suspensions ever made in the Indian parliament.
The Indian parliament, currently marred by protests from opposition parties, has been witnessing adjournments on a daily basis since the upper house chairman, M. Venkaiah Naidu, suspended 12 lawmakers on 29 November.
Naidu, who is also the country's vice president, previously served as a federal Cabinet minister in the Narendra Modi government.
The opposition has termed the suspension of parliamentarians from the Rajya Sabha (the upper house) as "undemocratic and in violation of all the Rules of Procedure". The suspended lawmakers have decided to protest on the parliamentary premises during the ongoing session.
Priyanka Chaturvedi, a Shiv Sena politician and one of the 12 suspended parliamentarians, spoke with Sputnik and shared why she felt the need to protest against the federally governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the behaviour of the house chairman against them.
Sputnik: How do you view the suspension of parliamentarians from the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of parliament?
Priyanka Chaturvedi: Even experts have termed our suspension unconstitutional. The entire quantum of punishment is the whole session, which means you're effectively disallowing 12 parliamentarians from speaking or raising the issues of their constituencies, not letting us raise our questions.

Me and my other 11 colleagues are appointed by the government of different states, respectively. Are you trying to silence the states?

Moreover, even criminals and terrorists get an opportunity to speak for themselves and present their case. Here, on the basis of some CCTV footage which shows that we were disrupting the house, we got suspended.
The CCTV footage is controlled by the government, even the opposition has been not given access to the whole footage. This is a total disregard of democracy.
Our other issues are that our mics are silent. If we raise a voice inside the house, our protest's telecast is also not shown. Why is this happening with the opposition?
The government is very ego-driven and very clear with their intent that they don't want to leave any space for the opposition to speak up. So, we're being denied the space to speak.
Sputnik: You've repeatedly claimed not being involved in the protest and disruption of the House. Do you think you have been deliberately suspended? Why?
Priyanka Chaturvedi: On the day for which the government suspended us, 11 August, the government wanted to pass the General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill, 2021.
This bill affected the lives of millions of small traders in the country. This government was set to pass the bill without a discussion. And every lawmaker (not just the 12 of us) from the opposition stood up and protested against it. On what basis did they suspend only 12 lawmakers? Why such selective targeting?

Hence, we are protesting to let the government know that we're suspended, not silenced. We are sharing our views on social media, through protest, and media.

Sputnik: The two latest parliamentary sessions have seen adjournments on a daily basis, with the government accusing the opposition of not letting it run the parliament.
Priyanka Chaturvedi: If the opposition is responsible for running the parliament, let the parliamentary affairs minister be from the opposition. The responsibility of running the house lies solely with the leader of the house and the parliamentary affairs minister. It is their primary duty that all the bills that they introduce are discussed with the opposition.
Sputnik: The opposition unanimously supported your protest. Can we view this as the emergence of a united opposition?
Priyanka Chaturvedi: The suspension of 12 lawmakers across all party lines has sent out a very clear message to all opposition leaders that if we do not unite against such unruly behaviour, very soon, we all may have to say goodbye to parliamentary democracy in India.
This parliament, where we work right now, can turn into a museum and a new one (the new parliament building) that is being built will be a tourist site if the opposition stays silent. So I'll be glad if opposition parties get united in this protest.
Parties may have different opinions, our politics could be different. But our call of duty is higher, which is to safeguard the country's democracy and our constitutional values. We should be united in our commitment towards the people.
Sputnik: In your view, what's the BJP's attitude to this?
Priyanka Chaturvedi: The whole incidence shows the authoritarian attitude which the government is building. It seems that there is no space for free speech.
Not just opposition, even journalists are restricted in the parliament in the name of COVID.
The prime minister can have election rallies attended by tens of thousands of people, but journalists are not allowed inside the parliament in the name of COVID.
You're crushing journalists' questions, opposition voices, how many more people will you de-platform to allow your version of democracy to function — which is actually "democrazy" because of its craziness.
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