The issue of lynchings today resonated in the Rajya Sabha where the Opposition alleged involvement of "some members" of BJP and Sangh Parivar in these incidents even as the government said communal colour should not be given to such violence. As the House took up a discussion on the issue, Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said the government is equally concerned about the criminal incidents and everyone should speak in one voice to fight against "such destructive forces". The Centre condemns such incidents, Naqvi said, adding the states should take stringent legal action against those involved.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also made this clear during the All Party meeting recently, he added during the debate on 'situation arising out of the reported increase in the incidents of lynching and atrocities on minorities and dalits across the country'.
He alleged that it's a "conspiracy" that some are trying to "defame" the government and divert its agenda in the name of such incidents as they think they could level corruption charges on the government in the last three years.
Initiating the debate, Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad attacked the government, saying the rise in these incidents was spreading the message of fear.
"Earlier it was done at individual level. You may not like it, all lynching is done by some members of the ruling party and Sangh Parivar," he alleged.
It is done with a basic understanding and hence no arrests been made in the incidents that happened so far.
"They should have been jailed. Even I can identify hundreds. They are known to the media," the Congress leader said.
Insisting that no Opposition party benefits from these incidents, he said but "one political party, the ruling party is benefiting. This is done for political harvest."
Urging the government to take the matter seriously, Azad said, "This nation belongs to all. Your responsibility is more. You have to take the lead. We can help in creating an atmosphere. If you spoil the atmosphere..."
He urged the ruling party to give up "vote politics" and work towards making the country strong within to fight the external issues.
"This is not a religious battle. This is not Hindu-Muslim fight. This is everyone's fight for humanity. When our home is weak, how can we fight the external forces...Our house has always been strong. Don't break the house for votes," he said.
Azad said not a single place is safe, from Jammu and Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
"Lynchings are reported from all over. Such incidents are happening for the first time. This used to happen during the medieval age, not even during British times," he said.
He expressed sadness over the "disturbing trend" that no one comes forward to save a person being lynched.
He, however, praised some sections of the media for continuing to report these incidents fearlessly.
Urging the Opposition to unite and speak with one voice in its fight against the destructive forces, Naqvi said: "Please don't give communal angle to these incidents. If you give, you are helping them..."
"We should together defeat and isolate the destructive forces. We should speak in one voice. ...Please speak truth on this issue," said Naqvi, who is also Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs.
Asserting that the government will not allow any "destructive forces" to dominate the development agenda, Naqvi said, "We do not wish any destructive forces to affect the government's development agenda and the country's culture."
He added, "The policy of our government and the party is clear that we will not allow any destructive agenda to dominate on our development agenda."
It would be misunderstanding on the part of "destructive forces" to think that by "fabricating the issues", they can divert the attention, Naqvi said. "Then it would be nothing but "Mungeri Lal ke Haseen Sapne (day dreaming)," he said.
"This is a conspiracy. Anyone could be doing it. I am not taking any party names. I don't want to get into it."
Stating that lynching incidents were reported in the previous government regime too, the Minister said: "Whether lynching incidents happened before or now, strict legal action should be initiated against those involved."
Refuting the Opposition charge that no action was taken against those involved in lynching incidents, he gave details of arrests made in Rajasthan, Haryana, Jharkhand and Maharasthra in the last six months.
SP leader Naresh Agrawal said the government should bring a "stringent law" to curb the lynching incidents.
He added that while the Prime Minister had made a statement that strict action should be taken against those taking lives in the name of 'Gau rakshaks' (cow protection), on the other hand, Goa Chief Minister made a contradictory statement.
"You are having God's name on lips and knives in your pockets," he said.
He suggested that the Prime Minister should call a meeting of all the Chief Ministers and direct them to take strict action against those indulging in lynching.
He said there have been killings in the name of religion and caste which is damaging India's image.
The SP leader also attacked the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh over setting up of 'anti-romeo' squads, saying "You are converting the state into Saudi Arabia".
He alleged that the UP government had failed in maintaining law and order as there have been several cases of rape in the state.
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury cited the cases of lynchings that took place over the last two years and demanded that the central government ban cow vigilante groups and moral policing groups, which he described as "private armies".
The fight against vigilante groups is necessary to maintain constitutional order, he said.
During his speech, he referred to Sardar Patel's comments while banning RSS, mentioned Hitler's remarks on nationalism and also invoked Rabindranath Tagore.
He also cited Bhagvat Gita, saying it says all humans are equal.
The right of equality, granted under the Constitution, is "being questioned and severely trampled upon through these incidents of lynching," he noted.
The CPI(M) leader charged that it is "Hindutava nationalism" that is giving sustenance to these groups. He stressed on stopping the cult of violence being spread.
"This is not the 'Bharat Mata' I know," he said, adding that his 'Bharat Mata' has place for people of all religions.
Yechury questioned why only the slogan 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' is considered patriotic. "Was Bhagat Singh, who gave 'Inquilab zindabad' slogan, not patriotic?"
Yechury also referred to articles and editorials in foreign publications criticising these incidents and said "This is your international standing today".
He said these lynching incidents are not isolated incidents of law and order but part of ideology that seeks to undermine constitution.
"Ban all these cow vigilante groups, ban anti-romeo groups" Yechury said as he rued that beef has become a parameter for religious identification.
Highlighting that the country is a major beef exporter, he asked, "Will you tell me what I should eat and not eat...?"
Trinamool Congress leader Derek O'Brien referred to the Prime Minister's comment against kiling people in the name of cow-protection and said, "Empty words and generic comments will not work. Name the group. Name the individual. We are deeply suspicious."
O'Brien said the real term should be "cow terrorism" and not cow vigilantism.
Not only the minorities and dalits are being targeted, but even the powerful media houses and opposition parties are also being targeted, he said.
"We will not be cowed down to your political terrorism and polictical vendetta," said O'Brien while citing various cases like 'Sarada scam' in which some of his party colleagues are facing allegations.
The TMC leader charged that the government is also engaged in financial and tax terrorism.
O'Brien, whose party is in power in West Bengal, alleged that fake pictures were being ciruclated on social media by a BJP leader during the recent violence in the state.
"But polarisation will never happen in West Bengal," he added.
Concluding his speech, he appealed to all Opposition parties to join hands to fight BJP. "We will get GST - "Growing Strong Together".