Sunday, April 14, 2024

Full text: “You are a coward wielding power.” Mahua Moitra’s speech in Lok Sabha

Honorable Chairman sir,

I rise today to speak against the motion and support the amendments moved by my party to the honorable president’s address. Far too many of our fellow citizens today languish in jail or bear the burden of judicial and police harassment simply for asking questions of this government or choosing to voice an opinion on the state of affairs in our country. So I as a parliamentarian, garbed in parliamentary privilege now choose to use this platform that people have given me to ask the questions that the people want to ask and to give voice to their thoughts so that this government may know that arresting, attacking, and repressing Voices will not hold. I trust my honorable colleagues and the treasury benches will not shout me down and you Mr. Honourable chairman sir will let me speak for the entirety of my allotted time and that Lok Sabha TV paid for, by taxpayers money will not turn the screens off.

The American journalist, Elmer Davis’ words about the United States are just as relevant with the celebration of the 72nd anniversary of the birth of our republic that, “This Republic was not created by cowards and these cowards will not preserve it.”

So today I speak of cowardice and courage and of the difference between the two of those cowards who hide behind the false bravado of the authority of power, of hate, of bigotry, of untruth and dare to call it courage. After all, this government has turned propaganda and disinformation into a cottage industry. Whose biggest success is the recasting of cowardice as courage. I’ll lay out various instances where this government has demonstrated courage. The government claims to shown courage to bring in a law that questions arbitrary parameters.

Who is or who isn’t an Indian. The citizenship amendment act was passed in 2019 and this house on the pretext of granting citizenship to persecuted Hindus and other minorities in neighboring countries. At the same time, it threw into an abyss of insecurity millions of Indians who had been living in this land for generations but the rules by which this act will be implemented were not yet prepared by December 2020 according to the ministry of home affairs the deadline has yet again been extended till April 2020. If indeed this government cares so much for those persecuted in neighboring countries why does it miss deadline after deadline to notify these rules? And meanwhile, very many of us have mastered the courage to tell the government Kagaz Nahi dikhayenge (we will not show our papers) trying to exert central influence over shanti niketan Tagore’s heaven is not enough to change your colors. Only a small portion of ‘Jana Gana mana’ (national anthem) was adopted as a national anthem, I ask the government to read the rest of it maybe it’ll help you understand Tagore as you call him and Bengal a little better.

My colleague, the respected leader of the Congress party happens to also quote these very words, but I think repeating them over and over again would do our nation some good. 

“Aharaha Tabo Awhbano Pracharito

Shuni Tabo Udaro Bani

Hindu Bauddho Sikho Jaino

Parasiko Musalmano Khristani

Puraba Pashchimo Aashay

Tabo Singhasano Pashay

Premoharo Hawye Gantha

Jano Gano Oikya Bidhyaka

Jaya Hey” –

Hail unity, Hail religious diversity! The courage to make India the world’s greatest democracy into a virtual police state whereby a single dubious complaint both an eminent member of this house as well as one of India’s most veteran journalists is charged with sedition?

The courage to try and take over every state government by hook or by crook whether you have won the popular mandate or not.

You claim you are wedded to construct a corporation and cooperative federalism instead of partnering with state governments and you try to muscle them out at every opportunity. Does the ruling party wish that its legacy be that it governed the largest democracy in the world or that it imposed a one-party rule in India? Ask yourselves.

The courage to announce a national lockdown at only four hours notice causing untold mysteries countless deaths the site of thousands walking for hundreds of miles with no food or money. This government spent less than 2% on social transfers in contrast to OECD countries who spent 20% and 6% which was spent by middle-income countries. The courage, no! the brazen audacity to announce that economic rebound.

India was the single worst performer among developing countries in the year 2020. Even if we believe this government’s economic survey, the economy was lower by 7.7% in 2020 and will rise by 11% in 2021. So in effect by 2022, that is over a two-year time span, the economy will be flat, just at the 2019 GDP number. The survey proclaims that growth is the biggest poverty elevator. 

Honorable Members of this house we are going to have no growth for two whole years…I don’t understand the celebration. I come from a rural constituency and a source of migrant workers. The distress in the MSME sector is real. This rebound is one where large strong enterprises have become stronger. 

It is not “V” shaped it’s “K” shaped. 1% of which unsuccessful citizens have become richer and the pains of the MSMEs have only increased. The government had the courage to say that it gave 1,13,000 crores via the direct benefit transfer scheme only to take the same money away from those very same people and the middle class in the way of the increased tax on petrol and diesel. We are not a nation that is growing and sharing its wealth; we seem to be a nation that is only finding ways to share our poverty. The hype today is that post-budget the Sensex jumped. In a country where only 6 Crore people pay taxes only 4.6% of the total population. How many do you think are invested in the Sensex they should jump for joy when the Sensex jumps? The courage to use official channels of the ministry of external affairs to respond to social media posts by an 18-year-old climate activist and an American pop star. Where not even one single ministry has been deputed by this government to try and look out for the food water and basic sanitation need of the farmers and their families who have been camping at the border for almost 90 days and finally the courage to bring three farm laws when the opposition farmers across the country, as well as the government’s oldest ally, warned it was unacceptable. I wish to remind this government India under Prime Minister Laal Bahadur Shastri committed three things to Sant Fateh Singh- the Kali leader, the creation of a Punjabi speaking state, open-ended public procurement, and an assured return on agricultural produce.

These farm laws threaten to snatch away two of these guarantees, these laws were arrived at without consensus, tabled without scrutiny, and rammed down this nation’s throat with the brute force of treasury benches. They have firmly established this government’s motto of brutality over morality and everyone else in this country has been portrayed as a coward or a terrorist. From the farmers to the students to the old ladies of Shaheen Bagh…you say you have courage? You claim you have done so many things that no other government before you has done. Yes, that is true, in true fascist fashion you have laid every act of pettiness of vengeance of hate of bigotry a part of your narrative of your courage. The reason no one has done this before you is not because no one had the courage but simply because it was not the right thing to do. Has that thought ever struck you?  And India’s tragedy today is not just that the government has failed her, but that her other democratic pillars, the media, the judiciary have failed her too.

Lord Hain, the Labour peer said in the House of Lords: “What is the point of being a member of parliament either in the commons or in the lords if you don’t discharge your responsibilities and wear appropriate use the privileges that you have in order to promote justice and liberty.”

So today like a true child of Bengal I’ll stand here and be courageous, trust me Mr. Balu we have not lost the fighting spirit. Even though the government’s spin factories will later portray us as cowardice or even plagiarism. I’ll lay out a few home truths by using my parliamentary privileges that guards me from charges of sedition and contempt for anything I say in this house and Mr. Law Minister Sir if you are present on the premises with all due respect this time you have neither the right to shut me up nor the right to try and get my words expunged from the records. 

The sacred cow that was the judiciary is no longer sacred. It stopped being sacred the day a sitting chief justice of this country was accused of sexual harassment, presided over his own trial, cleared himself, and then proceeded to accept the nomination to the upper house within three months of retirement replete with Z+ Security cover, the judiciary stopped being sacred when it chose to squander the greatest opportunity that any bench of the highest court of this land has ever seen, to reinforce the founding principles of our democratic Republic and to uphold the rights and enshrined in part three of our Constitution.

Instead, it led migrants to walk to their deaths, it led our greatest activists and modern fighters to rot in jail and it now sits back as a mute spectator when our young are prosecuted for cracking a joke. The judiciary seems to have forgotten the constitutional principle of separation of powers that powers parliament and parliament alone can legislate. If something is bad in law then the courts can strike it down or stay it on grounds of unconstitutionality but unless it is so the courts must do nothing, the government must alone face the consequences. If the government has brought the farm laws which are not acceptable to people then either the government will repeal the laws or the people will vote the government out. We urgently need the sagacity and the courage shown by the High Courts during the emergency when they delivered the A.D.M Jabalpur and like decisions. The supreme court, unfortunately, spilling the common citizen and is being perceived as protecting the privilege and ironically only itself. A very large section of the Indian media has plummeted to new deaths both in terms of lack of factual reporting as well as the total absence of journalistic ethics and yet, even when the bar is so low the WhatsApp chat leaks detailing correspondence between a large government leading media channel and the head of the TV ratings agency expose the utter filth and the chronic capitalism that ironically this government claim to be saving us from. What is left of the resilient media is being targeted with the provisions of the UAPA and other draconian laws. You keep taunting Congress about the emergency but India today is in a state of an undeclared emergency, but the government has miscalculated there is a fundamental difference between cowardice and courage. The coward is brave only when armed with power and authority the truly courageous can fight even when unarmed. Do not forget this. Do not forget this when you tell the authorities in Ghaziabad to clear the protest site overnight with the help of police and the bureaucracy. You are not being courageous, you are a coward wielding power, the truly brave came on roads from villages wielding nothing but the belief that their cause is just. They were propelled by the spontaneous tears of their leader, not by the force of their water cannons. Do not forget this when you block the roads and cut the internet off in 17 of Haryana’s districts. You are not being brave, you are a coward wielding power. The state of Haryana gives 10% of the Indian air force and contributes to 11% of the total Indian navy. Its people can neither be termed as anti-national nor terrorist nor Gaddars (disloyal). Do not forget this when a peaceful 60-day movement is insidiously hijacked and then you slap FIR on Punjab’s farmers. You are not being courageous you are a coward wielding power. Baghel Singh and Jassa Singh Ahluwalia leading their missiles captured Delhi way back in 1783 from the Mughals, their descendants do not lead a lesson of courage from those who captured Delhi only in 2014. Tagore in his poem “Bondi Bir” – The Captive Warrior, an ode to Sardar Banda Singh Bahadur wrote ..- that momentous day has arrived in the 125th year of Subash Chandra Boss’s birth the central government has made every attempt to hijack Netaji’s legacy and fit it into their own fake narrow narrative of courage.

But, this Nation needs to know that Netaji had two clarion calls, both embodiments of his courage and his spirit. One was the salutation “Jai hind” today this government has replaced this national greeting with a narrow religious chant that it uses as a war-cry to heckle, bully, and always remind the minority about who is in-charge.

Neta Ji’s second call “Dilli Chalo/Chalo Dilli”- this government falls over to itself to pay lip service to Netaji, but in truth, you block borders in Singhu, in Ghazipur, in Tikri with walls and spikes for all those who actually wanted to come to Delhi that much like Subash Chandra Bose they too would not accept any halfway house.

Netaji told us never to lose faith in the destiny of India and it is not India’s Destiny to be ruled by cowards. The time has come for us to show courage. 

Girte haiñ sheh sawaar hi Maidaan e Jung me

Wo tifl kya gire Jo ghutno ke bal chale

(Only the one who rides, falls on the battlefield

What will happen to the child who walked on his knees?)

Repeal or nothing.

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