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Conversion rocks Rajya Sabha

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Muslims stage a demonstration against the reported conversion of 60 Muslim families living in a slum on Agra's outskirts, in Agra on Dec 10, 2014.
Muslims stage a demonstration against the reported conversion of 60 Muslim families living in a slum on Agra’s outskirts, in Agra on Dec 10, 2014.

The Rajya Sabha witnessed heated protests over the conversion issue once again, stalling the proceedings in the pre-lunch sitting.

As soon as the house met for the day, opposition members were on their feet, protesting over the issue that stalled the upper house Monday too.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury informed Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien that he had a copy of the circular asking some schools to remain open on Christmas.

Soon after papers were laid, the opposition raised slogans against the government.

Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Sharad Yadav said: “There are repeated incidents. No action is being taken by the government, and you are asking us to just discuss it.”

An angry Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi accused the opposition of “running away from discussion”.

“Those who don’t want to discuss can just leave,” said Naqvi as he repeatedly said the government was ready to take up the debate.

“You are insulting the mandate of the people…,” added Naqvi.

Members from the Congress and the Samajwadi Party (SP) then trooped near the chairman’s podium. In the din, the house was adjourned for 15 minutes.

The scene remained the same when the house reassembled.

“The kind of comments the ruling party MPs are making, we cannot accept it,” Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal said.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad again slammed the opposition for “running away from a debate”.

Kurien repeatedly urged the members to calm down, and said: “Parliament is for discussion, not for shouting.”

The opposition members, however, raised slogans near the chairman’s podium, forcing the deputy chairman to adjourn the house till noon.

At noon, when Chairman M. Hamid Ansari started the question hour, members continued protests, despite repeated pleas from the chair to let the questions be taken up.

“In this house, the prime minister made a statement, after a comment by a minister. He said he has spoken in tough words to his MPs, but the MPs are still making statements which are spreading a fire in the country,” Agarwal said.

Within a few minutes, the chairman adjourned the house for 15 minutes.

As protests continued after that as well, the house was adjourned till 2 p.m., unable to take up the scheduled business.

The opposition has been protesting in the wake of recent reports of conversion of Muslims to Hinduism, and also Bharatiya Janata Party MP Yogi Adityanath’s comment supporting a mass conversion programme.

Adityanath reportedly said there is nothing wrong if people re-convert to Hinduism if they are doing it willingly.

The opposition members are demanding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should assure the house that action will be taken to stop such incidents.

The protests have, however, put the government in a difficult position as several key legislations, including the insurance bill, remain pending for the approval of the house.