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Parliament not being in session on 2001 attack anniversary is the worst tribute for those who died defending it

Angshukanta Chakraborty
Angshukanta ChakrabortyDec 13, 2017 | 17:29

Parliament not being in session on 2001 attack anniversary is the worst tribute for those who died defending it

It’s the 16th anniversary of one of the worst chapters in the history of India’s face-off with cross-border terrorism, the attack on Parliament complex on December 13, 2001. Nine citizens, of them eight paramilitary and police personnel, laid down their lives that day to protect India’s “temple of democracy”, our Parliament, which was in session that day, having adjourned 40 minutes before the hallowed building was ambushed. Since that day, Parliament has always been in session on December 13, as part of the legislature’s Winter Session, and tributes have preceded, accompanied, the proceedings of that day, with lawmakers arguing furiously over the political past, present and future of the country.

This year too, tributes have poured in from our parliamentarians, even though Parliament itself is not in session. The Winter Session has been cut short owning to compulsions; namely the ongoing Gujarat Assembly elections. 2017 will go down in history as the year in which those who died to protect India’s highest legislative body were not even accorded the basic decency of a functional, punctual, timely working Parliament because of electoral priorities.

There lies the rub. Winter Session has been postponed to miraculously start exactly a day after the second of the two phases of Gujarat Assembly elections are held. Parliament will begin to convene from December 15 onwards, and Gujarat polls’ phase two will take place tomorrowDecember 14. This is the beauty of the current regime: the coincidences never cease to amaze an unbiased political observer.

So today, 16 years since the 2001 attack, Parliament is not in session, but “tributes” are pouring in. Flower wreaths, prayer meetings, the garlanded picture frames of the nine slain Indians, chants of nationalism – the tailored chorus of the day is being played in loop. The men and the woman who died to protect our Parliament would have scoffed at today’s memoriam, for who better than them to know that Parliament isn’t just a building.    

So Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his cabinet ministers including Sushma Swaraj, Nirmala Sitharaman, Ravi Shankar Prasad, among others, as well as the leaders in the Opposition, Rahul Gandhi, Manmohan Singh, et al – making a beeline to offer their tributes are basically participating in a grand charade that claims to be respecting Parliament, but actually does the very opposite. Since it’s the government of the day that decides the dates for Parliament, the lion’s share of disrespect is reserved for the Modi regime that treats Parliament as dispensable, an instrument towards retaining and expanding its dominion over every aspect of this country’s citizens, bringing in ordinances and passing laws that clamp down on the constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms, take them away one by one.

parliament_121317051145.jpgPhoto: Indiatoday.in

India lags behind many global powers, including the USA, the UK, France, etc, in the number of days the respective central legislatures are in session. In bicameral legislatures – with an upper and lower house – such as in the USA and UK, parliaments convene for almost half the days of the year. In India, we average at a dismal 80 days, and even then, the attendance of our parliamentarians is nothing to talk home about.   

But even the Opposition and its superstar members of Parliament do have their share of the blame, for not persuading the government of the day to not treat the highest legislative body of the country as a mere hurdle before staggering electoral compulsions. That the Opposition hasn’t been constantly up in arms, that it too has taken this opportunity to make electoral hay while the sun of Gujarat campaign shines, is something we mustn’t forget readily.

And though Congress has asserted that the ruling BJP and PM Modi are scared to face them in Parliament over questions on Rafale deal, Jay Shah’s company, the Sohrabudin Sheikh case judge Brijgopal Loya’s “mysterious” death in December 2014, the strange finances of Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation and the “loss” to the tune of Rs 20,000 crore, among other issues, the Opposition hasn’t been able to influence or shame the government for convening before or during Gujarat Assembly polls.

In today’s defining image, PM Modi has been seen shaking his hands with former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, outside the entry of Parliament’s Central Hall. This “warm greeting” days after almost branding his predecessor an “anti-national”,“conspiring with Pakistan”, hobnobbing with members of the “enemy” country, is the biggest headline of the day, as the clip of the handshake is played in loop, intercut with images of the December 13, 2001 slain, in a curious montage of media-driven nationalism-antinationalism.

Those who died to safeguard Parliament on December 13, 2001, how would they have reacted to such denigration of the prime minister’s office, such routine use of innuendo to imply a former PM, an ex-COAS, former diplomats who ensure military option remains the last resort between quarrelsome neighbours, among others, have been branded seditious plotters? How would those the PM is paying a tribute to today have responded to the fact that the PM doesn’t have qualms about shaking hands with someone he had pointed a finger at, with millions watching, camera rolling, thousands tweeting out his insinuations that that person had “colluded” with the very country that had sent its terrorist to attack the temple of democracy they died defending?

What sort of a twisted maze of mixed metaphors plays itself out through the montage of the current and former PMs shaking hands today outside the gate of Parliament on the 16th anniversary of the 2001 attack, just days after such allegations were hurled by a sitting prime minister for electoral gains in a state Assembly poll?

Faux-nationalism brigade, including PM Modi, would want us to forget why the country’s highest legislative body matters at all. The messaging is hardly subtle any longer: it’s now a scrambled scream for help from the Indian Parliament.

Last updated: December 14, 2017 | 10:38
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