NEW DELHI, Nov 19: Stressing that there should be no politics over martyrs, Opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday urged the government to show “magnanimity” by allowing the Congress President to continue as a permanent member of the trust that runs the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial.
The opposition members were participating in a discussion on the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2019 after Culture and Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel moved the motion for further consideration and passing of the Bill.
The amendment seeks to remove the Congress President as a permanent member of the Trust that runs the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial in Amritsar, Punjab.
Patel had moved the Bill in the Rajya Sabha on August 7 after the Lok Sabha passed it on August 2 by a voice vote amid a Congress walkout.
Participating in the debate, Pratap Singh Bajwa of the Congress said Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the historic 250th session of the Upper House wanted opposition to show large heartedness.
It was time that the government showed “magnanimity” and recognised the Congress party’s contribution to the freedom struggle, he said.
“There is no need to rewrite history,” Bajwa said, adding that the relationship between Jallianwala Bagh and Congress party was that of “nail and flesh” which cannot be separated from each other.
The Jallianwala Bagh massacre occurred on April 13, 1919 when about 1,500 people peacefully gathered at the garden to oppose the Rowlatt Act were indiscriminately fired upon at the orders of military officer General E H Dyer.
Bajwa also said the government should confer Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian award, on freedom fighter Bhagat Singh and also acknowledge the sacrifice of revolutionary Udham Singh who waited for 21 years to avenge the Jallianwala Bagh incident by killing General Dyer in London.
Sukhendu Sekhar Ray (Trinamool) said the massacre was a black chapter and urged the government to not concentrate on removing people from the Trust but to include martyrs’ family members in the Trust.
He said it was Rabindra Nath Tagore who had renounced British Knighthood in protest against the massacre of 1919 and initiated the protest against it.
Prof Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) reiterated that there should be “no politics in the matter of martyrs” and if the government wanted to do something it can at least erect a statue of martyr Udham Singh in the Parliament complex.
Prasanna Acharya (BJD) reiterated: “You are segregating Congress Party from this trust…You cannot change the history of freedom movement…Show magnanimity.”
He said the family members of martyr Uhdam Singh should be included in the Trust.
Shwait Malik (BJP) said the historic memorial was in shambles and it was the BJP which renovated it and that there were plans for light and sound shows and 3D digital theatre at the instance of the Prime Minister.
AIADMK’s S Muthukaruppam (AIADMK) supported the Bill.
Earlier, Prahlad Patel urged the House to pass the Bill saying the amendments were small including induction of Leader of the Opposition or leader of the biggest political party in the Trust and termination of any member of the Governing Body of the Trust before the five-year tenure.
Participating in the debate, KK Ragesh (CPI-M) said the government wanted to take control of the Jallianwala Bagh memorial.
“You are always afraid of history and monuments as you did not play any role in the freedom struggle… During the freedom struggle you were dancing on the tunes of the British and trying to divide the country on communal lines,” he said, referring to the Treasury benches.
Tiruchi Siva (DMK) emphasised that the memorial should be maintained as a place which instills the feeling of patriotism and not as a tourist place.
Swapan Dasgupta (Ind) said the memorial belonged to the entire country and nobody should have proprietorial interest in it.
There is no denying the fact that Congress led the freedom struggle but that does not mean that its President should stay as trustee of the memorial, he said.
Balwinder Singh Bhunder (SAD) said the government should make policies for the welfare of families of the martyrs who laid down their lives for the country.
He said till date no pictures of martyrs like Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Udham Singh were displayed at any place in the Parliament House.
He also sought the Bharat Ratna for Bhagat Singh and Udham Singh.
V Vijay Sai Reddy (YSR Congress Party) supported the Bill. He said the memorial belonged to the nation and there was no need to have a political party as a trustee.
Sudhanshu Trivedi (BJP), in his maiden speech, emphasised the need to keep political parties out of the purview of constitutional set up.
Opposing the government’s move, L Hanumanthaiah (Congress) said the real intention of the government to remove the Congress President as trustee was to change the country’s history by bringing in “fake” things.
Sanjay Singh (AAP) said instead of discussing who should run the memorial, efforts should be made to form welfare policies for the martyrs’ families.
He also raised the issue of the attack on JNU students by security forces.
Vaiko (MDMK) said the bill showed the government’s petty mindedness.
Ritabrata Banerjee (Ind), Ram Chandra Prasad Singh (JD-U) and Biswajit Daimary (BPF) also participated in the debate. (PTI)