Smriti Irani, Mayawati face-off continues

Smriti Irani and Mayawati had a face-off yet again on Friday in Rajya Sabha, with the Bahujan Samaj Party leader saying she was not convinced by the human resource development minister’s statement with regard to Rohith Vemula’s suicide.

The issue, related to the suicide by Vemula, a Dalit student of Hyderabad University, also led to a clash between Irani and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury. Mayawati, who has been demanding inclusion of a Dalit in the panel probing Vemula’s death, slammed the government for appointing a one-man judicial commission of former Allahabad High Court judge Ashok Kumar Roopanwal.

“My question, whether a Dalit member is part of the Commission, has not been answered by the government. The Government’s intention is dubious,” she said.

She added, as per the laws, the government can increase the strength of the commission, and add a Dalit member, but it has not done this so far, which shows its intentions towards the Scheduled Classes.

The former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister said government’s intentions are now clear and it is trying to save the accused “who are from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh”.

She said Irani had mentioned in the House two days back, that if BSP is not convinced by the clarification of the government, she (Irani) will chop off her head and present it to her. “Since we are not convinced by the government’s clarification, will she (Irani) do that?” Mayawati asked.

On Wednesday too, the House had witnessed a clash between Irani and Mayawati over the same issue.

Yechury also took on Irani for quoting certain Facebook posts, purportedly written by Vemula, which were critical of the CPI(M) leader and accused her of making “all foul fair”.

He questioned the veracity of the Facebook account that she had claimed to be that of Vemula.

“Can a Facebook account be authenticated? Can ‘quotes’ from the ‘cyberspace’ be permitted without the same being authenticated?” he questioned and insisted that nothing should go on record in the House without it is authenticated.

Contending that he is not against any criticism, Yechury said the authenticity of Vemula’s Facebook comments against him need to be ascertained.

“I have always said that let a hundred flowers bloom and let a thousand thoughts contend,” he added.

At this, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley interjected, saying “every word” read out by Irani has been authenticated by the Registrar of the University.

Yechury said the government had got these authenticated by the vice-chancellors and registrars who are appointed by them.

The CPI (M) leader further said: “Yesterday (Thursday) she (Irani) quoted from Macbeth saying fair is foul and foul is fair. She is making all foul fair without giving any authentication.”

Deputy Chairman P J Kurien assured Yechury that he will look into the documents and check their authenticity.

Yechury also said that Vemula, in his letter written a month before committing suicide, had said that he should be given a rope, which indicated the state of his mind. “What did university do?” he questioned.

With regard to Jaitley’s comment that he should condemn anti-India statements, Yechury said he has already done it.

Earlier, replying to questions raised by Mayawati on Vemula not getting fellowship payments, the HRD Minister said the Dalit scholar’s last fellowship payment was stopped as he was asked to file some documents.

Irani termed as “baseless” the allegations that no one from the Scheduled Classes is a member of the Hyderabad Central University’s Proctorial Board.

Vemula’s mother had spoken to her and sought a judicial inquiry and she had assured her that the government has set up a judicial commission, which is probing into the circumstances that led to Vemula committing suicide, Irani said.

On the judicial commission, Irani said Justice Roopanwal was the Judge of the Allahabad High Court, which is in a state of which Mayawati was the Chief Minister and he is a noted jurist.