New Delhi: On Thursday (September 21) night, Bharatiya Janata Party Lok Sabha MP Ramesh Bidhuri used violent anti-Muslim slurs against his parliament colleague Danish Ali of the Bahujan Samaj Party. Bidhuri’s words were televised as part of the Lok Sabha proceedings.
“Yeh ugrawaaadi (militant), yeh aatankwaadi hai (terrorist), ugrawaadi hai, yeh aantankwaadi hai,” Bidhuri can be heard shouting during the proceedings. He also reportedly referred to Ali as a “Mullah aatankwadi, bharwa (pimp) and katwa (circumcised).”
“Baahar phenko iss mulle ko (Throw this ‘mullah’ out),” Bidhuri, the MP from South Delhi, also said.
Congress leader Kodikunnal Suresh, who was in the chair, can be seen telling MPs to sit down. Suresh later said he had told officials to ensure that Bidhuri’s comments were expunged from the records.
BJP MP @rameshbidhuri calling MP Danish Ali a “Bharwa” (pimp), “Katwa” (circumcised), “Mullah Atankwadi” & “Mullah Ugrawadi” ON RECORD in Lok Sabha last night.
— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) September 22, 2023
Moitra also tweeted twice afterwards, criticising the disparity of action against Bhiduri by Speaker Om Birla.
True paragon of impartiality @ombirlakota has apparently warned @rameshbidhuri to not do this again. Wow. While other lesser non BJP mortals like @adhirrcinc & @SanjayAzadSln suspended for far less.
Kya hua Sir- abh maryada, garima sabh bhool gaye? Shameful.
— Mahua Moitra (@MahuaMoitra) September 22, 2023
The BJP has not taken any action against Bidhuri despite his hate speech in parliament, though defence minister and deputy leader of the Lok Sabha Rajnath Singh “expressed regret” over the remarks. “I express regret if the opposition is hurt by the remarks made by the member,” Singh said, also saying that he had not heard the remarks himself.
PTI reported that Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla warned Bidhuri of “strict action” if this happens again, but did not say anything about action taken this time.
Ali has written to Birla asking that Bidhuri’s comments be referred to the Lok Sabha privileges committee. He said that the episode “is most unfortunate and the fact that it has happened in a new parliament building under your leadership as Speaker is truly heartbreaking for me as a minority member of this great nation and an elected Member of Parliament as well”.
“Since this is the only way out to discipline an experienced member so that the atmosphere of our country is not vitiated any further. I request your good self to kindly order an inquiry into the matter,” he wrote in the letter.
Speaking to The Wire, Ali pointedly asked, “Is this New India that Narendra Modi speaks about? If an MP is abused like this inside Lok Sabha, one can only imagine the fate of an ordinary Muslim.”
He said things have come to such a pass that in “Amrit Kaal” that hate speech is not only being made in the streets but also has now entered the hallowed portals of parliament.
“The abuse was very painful to hear. But the abuse was not for me, the slurs were not for me but for every Indian who believes in Indian democracy,” he said. “Bidhuri had so much courage because he knew that this was the easy way to get a promotion in the BJP. After giving the statement ‘Goli Maaro’, Anurag Thakur was made a minister Cabinet minister from the Minister of State. Till now there were hate speeches on the streets and in election meetings, now it has reached the Parliament.”
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh called Singh’s apology an “eyewash”. “[It is a] complete shame what Bhiduri said,” Ramesh told reporters. “Rajnath Singh’s apology is not acceptable it was a half-hearted apology…it is an eyewash.”
“Bhiduri has spoken in a language that is an insult not just to parliament but to every Indian,” Ramesh continued, wondering why the MP had not yet been suspended.
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) said that Bidhuri should be arrested, as parliamentary privilege cannot extend to hate speech.
No Privilege for Hate Speech
Arrest Ramesh Bidhuri
Filthy abusive language used by BJP MP Ramesh Bidhuri against Danish Ali ( BSP) on the floor constitutes the worst kind of hate speech indicted by the SC. No MP can claim privilege for such speech. He should be arrested. pic.twitter.com/7VrbYJw05E
— CPI (M) (@cpimspeak) September 22, 2023
BJP MP Harsh Vardhan – who was criticised by some social media users for chuckling as Bhiduri used the slurs – claimed that both MPs used unparliamentary language against each other, without saying anything about the communal slurs Bidhuri used. He then went on to talk about how he, Harsh Vardhan, has many Muslim friends.
I have seen my name trending on Twitter where people have dragged me into this unfortunate incident where two MPs were using unparliamentary language against each other on the floor of the House.
Our senior and respected leader Shri @rajnathsingh ji has already condemned the…
— Dr Harsh Vardhan (@drharshvardhan) September 22, 2023
Congress, DMK, TMC, and NCP move privilege motions
Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), and Trinamool Congress have thrown their weight behind Ali by moving privilege motions against Bidhuri.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also called on Ali at his home to extend support. In a post shared on X (formerly, Twitter), Gandhi is seen hugging Ali with the caption Nafrat ke bazaar mein, mohabbat ki dukkan (In this marketplace of hatred, there is a shop of love).”
नफ़रत के बाज़ार में मोहब्बत की दुकान pic.twitter.com/3IqLMFU0dx
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) September 22, 2023
Congress’s leader in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, also raised the issue with Speaker, Om Birla, in a letter addressed to him. “Never in the history of the Parliament have such words been used against a member of the minority community, and that too in the presence of the speaker. Considering the circumstances and the brazen violation of all norms and rules relating to the functioning of the House, it would only be appropriate to have the matter examined in detail by the Privileges Committee and punitive action taken against the errant Member,” Chowdhury wrote in the letter.
DMK’s MP Kanimozhi also urged the Speaker to take immediate action against Bhiduri. “His words cannot be trivialized as mere unparliamentary language; they egregiously undermine the dignity of the Parliament and constitute a grievous affront to democracy and our entire nation,” she wrote in a letter to Om Birla.
TMC’s Aparuppa Poddar urged Birla to refer the matter to the Privileges Committee. “The precedents and practice show that the Committee of Privileges has the jurisdiction to examine questions of breach on privilege on statements made inside the House,” Poddar’s letter to Birla said.
Moving a privilege motion against Bidhuri, NCP’s Supriya Sule said the BJP MP’s statement “prima facie constitutes a Breach of Privilege and they undermine the dignity of the Lok Sabha.”
Note: This article was updated with reactions from opposition parties at 8:52 pm on September 22, 2023, after it was published earlier on the same day.