Rewind to August 11 in Rajya Sabha: MPs recall events which have resulted in suspension of 12 of them

What had happened on August 11 in the House? For the first time in Rajya Sabha, MPs were beaten up after bringing people from outside, said former Congress President Rahul Gandhi

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi protesting with Opposition leaders
Congress MP Rahul Gandhi protesting with Opposition leaders

AJ Prabal

The 12 Opposition MPs suspended for the entire winter session by the Rajya Sabha chairman for their conduct in the House on August 11, 2021 is unprecedented. Never before have MPs been suspended for alleged conduct in an earlier session. Unruly behaviour always merited and attracted immediate suspension. What’s more the MPs did not receive any hearing either. In several other respects this is a watershed moment, a dark chapter, in our Parliamentary history.

So, what had happened on August 11 in the House? A shocked Sharad Pawar was quoted as saying, “In 55 years of my career as a Parliamentarian, I haven’t witnessed such scenes.” The Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, was quoted as saying that there was a "war-like atmosphere in the House". For the first time in Rajya Sabha, MPs were beaten up after bringing people from outside, said former Congress President Rahul Gandhi.

“The way people were brought in and deployed as marshals in Rajya Sabha. I felt like martial law was imposed and I felt like I was standing at Pakistan border as I was stopped from going inside,” recalled Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut.

In a statement 14 opposition parties alleged, “What happened in Rajya Sabha was shocking, unprecedented, sad and an insult to the very dignity of the House and humiliation of the members of the august House…”. The statement went on to say, “Without any provocation from the Opposition, outsiders who were not part of Parliament security, were brought in to manhandle the Opposition leaders and members, including women Parliamentarians who were only protesting against the Government’s conduct, high handedness and muzzling of their voice.”

A delegation of Opposition leaders called on the Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu and submitted a memorandum. It stated, “Opposition MPs were prevented from registering their protest against the General Insurance Amendment Bill on which there was a wide consensus that it should be referred to a Select Committee. The Opposition strongly condemns the authoritarian attitude and undemocratic actions of the Government”.

The delegation included Mallikarjun Kharge, Anand Sharma and Jairam Ramesh (Congress), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Ramgopal Yadav (SP), Tiruchi Siva (DMK), Sanjay Raut (Shiv Sena), Elamaram Kareem (CPI-M), Binoy Viswam (CPI), Manoj.K.Jha (RJD), Abdul Wahab (IUML) and Shreyams Kumar (LJD).

The manner in which the Insurance Amendment Bill to privatise GIC was passed in the Rajya Sabha was worse than atrocious; the Govt refused to send it to a Select Committee that was being demanded by all Opposition parties including those close to the BJP," said Congress Chief whip Jairam Ramesh.

Rajya Sabha TV stopped airing footage from the House, alleged Opposition MPs. While the bedlam continued for over half an hour, a two-minute footage of Opposition MPs seen in the well of the House and clambering on the reporters’ chair has been shared by Parliament TV to justify action against the MPs. The Opposition has demanded that the entire half-an-hour’s footage be released.

INC national spokesperson Gurdeep Singh Sappal tweeted on November 30, “Just rewind to August 11, 2021. The face of the protest against farm laws in the Rajya Sabha was Partap Singh Bajwa in all news channels. But he is not in the suspended MPs list. Reason is obvious -- Punjab elections. That’s how every decision in this regime is blatantly and politically motivated!”

Why were Opposition leaders not informed of the decision to suspend the 12 MPs at the All Party meeting before the session or in the Business Advisory Committee meeting? These lines from Bob Dylan’s song spring to mind:

"Yes, ’n’ how many years can some people exist

Before they’re allowed to be free?

Yes, ’n’ how many times can a man turn his head

Pretending he just doesn’t see?

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind…"

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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