January 22, 2021
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Rajya Sabha Debate

'Rhetoric Cannot Take The Place Of State Policy'

If you weaken secularism, weaken the faith of the people of all communities and all religions in the country's secular ethos, you are, in a sense, weakening the country, not strengthening it.

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'Rhetoric Cannot Take The Place Of State Policy'

We have seen the statement made by the hon. Home Minister and read out by the hon. Leader of the House. The hon. Members who have spoken before me have commented on the statement, and I shall, therefore, not repeat what they have said.  There is one thing to which I would certainly like to draw the attention of the Leader of the House, that, in substance, the statement recounts a lot of things, but does not give us an insight into what the Government is thinking of doing or what it feels it should do.  

So far as this event is concerned, Members from all sides of the House, all shades of public opinion, all political parties, have, in unequivocal terms, condemned it, and have pledged that they all stand together in this hour of crisis to face whatever challenge the nation is faced with.   I also associate myself with these sentiments.  

The Leader of the Opposition was at pains to emphasise why, in spite of this commitment, there are certain aspects of this matter which have to be brought up and answers asked on that.  There are two parts of this unfortunate matter -- one; what happened or did not happen before the attack; and second, what happened after the attack.  

A lot has been said about the knowledge of the functionaries of this Government about the intentions of the militant outfits to target Parliament.  I don't think that I need to recount  it because that is common knowledge for us now.  A lot of comparisons have been made with the unfortunate event that took place in the United States on 11th September.  But if I may recollect correctly, Madam, at no point of time did any functionary of the US Government, much less than the President of the US, even suggest that he had knowledge of what was going to happen on 11th September.  If he had made that statement that he was aware, however, vaguely, that such and such thing was going to happen in New York and Washington, I am quite sure the whole thing would have been looked at from a different point of view.  

Since the terror came there out of the blue skies, literally, naturally, the President and the nation were taken unawares.  Contrast that with our situation, Madam; here, we were not only aware, but the highest functionaries of our Government, over a period of a fortnight, have been warning us repeatedly that such a thing was likely to happen.  If it had not been so, no question would have been asked.  But the question arises because we have been witnesses, and very anguished witnesses, to what has happened in this country during the last few months.  Whether it was the Red Fort, whether it was the J&K Assembly, and a series of events like that; each one of them exercised the mind of the country, brought forward responses from this Government, more or less, on the identical level that we see today; what this statement embodies.

I know that in politics, rhetoric has a place.  But rhetoric cannot take the place of State policy.  And, when this rhetoric takes the place of a State policy, then, I think, that nation suffers very, very gravely because it cannot live up to that, and there is a let down. And this let down affects the morale of the nation.  This is precisely what is happening today.  And, therefore, when the Leader of the Opposition asked those questions, it was not out of any disrespect to anyone or that we were wanting in our commitment and loyalty to the nation. They were asked because those questions have to be answered.  

The first question was:  After having learnt of what was about to happen in Parliament, what precise steps did the hon. Home Minister or the hon. Prime Minister take to see that this threat did not materialize and if it does materialize, how are we going to meet it? We are not aware of anything.  The nation is not aware of anything.  This House is not aware of anything.  Even this statement does not contain any information about it. If you think those questions need not be answered, as a Government, you are entitled to feel like that.  But I may tell you that the nation does not feel so safe.  Those answers have to be given.  Moreover, Madam Deputy Chairman, since the matter relates to the Parliament of India, we would like to know as to what steps were taken, in consultation with the Speaker of the Lok Sabha and the Chairman of this House, to see that this did not happen.  

After all, with a great flare, the hon. Member who opened the debate from that side kept reminding us that the terrorists were less than 100 yards away from this place and that if they had come, what would have followed.  Here, I can only quote what Winston Churchill had said during the Second World War, talking about the brave people who led the defence of Great Britain.  His words can be applied here also.  Never in the history of India have so many been grateful to what a few people did.  It was a fortuitous luck, nothing else, which prevented a holocaust from taking place; a holocaust which could have been without a parallel in a nation's history; not only in India, but anywhere in the world.  

Of course, in Burma, immediately after independence, the whole cabinet of Aung Sung was assassinated, but never has a Parliament been put under such pressure and under such threat as we, in India, were.  Therefore, please enlighten this House, enlighten the country, as to what specific steps were taken so that this also does not pass, and then again, we come back, in the same manner in which we have been functioning.  Kargil gave us some lessons.  This House has not yet discussed that report..  The Government, perhaps, did not think it important enough to have that report discussed and the opinion of the House taken.  These other incidents have taken place.  

Aar par ki ladai (the battle of do or die, but literally aar-paar would mean "Through and through, right through; pierced through; across; from one side to the other" -- Ed.) is the latest phrase.  In Hindi, Aar par has a specific connotation.  And this term is used only when you are really prepared to do or die.  It is not used in a flippant manner; it is not used in a manner to assuage a section of opinion in this country.  In this aar paar ki ladai,  the contours of that aar paar are nowhere visible; either in this statement or any other statement or in any other intention which this Government is yet to make known to this House or to the country.  

Madam Deputy Chairman, the second point which I would like to make is about the actual wordings of the statement.  Certain facts have been narrated in the statement, and we believe that these facts must have been narrated on the basis of the facts that actually emerged out of the investigation.  There is one point, Madam; you may call it minor, but I would call it a significant point.  The statement does not make it clear as to from which gate of Parliament House the terrorists entered the premises of Parliament.  

In the media, all kinds of speculations are being made.  We thought that authoritatively, today, the nation will come to know how the whole sequence of events took place.  Unfortunately, that is missing, and we find only these words "...the investigation at this stage indicates that five Pakistani terrorists entered the Parliament House Complex at abouts 11.40 a.m. in an ambassador car bearing registration no....." Certainly, they did not airdrop here.  They must have entered either through Gate no. 1 or Gate no. 2.  And, if they entered through a specific gate, then, what was the position there?  How were we organised there?  Naturally, we can ask.  

Then, I understand, that there is a close-circuit TV, installed in the House, which films everything as soon as one enters the gate.  That TV film is available with the Government.  I think, this Parliament is entitled to see that film because we also want to know as to how all this happened.  When, in the statement, the Government is at a loss to say as to from which gate they entered, then, please let us see that film and decide for ourselves as to from which gate they entered.  

The next point which I want to make, again, is related to the statement -- about the terrorists coming to Gate no. 1, then, going back to Gate no. 11, incidentally or accidentally colliding the carcade of the hon. Vice-President of India and about the events that followed.  The statement says that "the remaining four terrorists turned back  and reached gate no. 9 of the building."  I think, this is an inadequate description of the situation.  We would like to have a more precise and detailed description of that event.  It is not that we are blaming anybody, but, atleast, we should correctly know the sequence of events because it is a matter which all of us and, I think, the Government too consider it to be extremely grave and sensitive.

I will now come to that part of the statement which I feel is indicative, and there is also a reluctant tone in the words of the statement.  In the last line of paragraph 8, it is said, "Naturally, it is time for all of us in this august House, and all of us in the country, to ponder why the terrorists and their backers tried to raise the stakes so high, particularly, at a time, when Pakistan is claiming to be a part of the international coalition against terrorism."  Then, you go on to say, "The only answer that satisfactorily addresses this query is that Pakistan - itself a product of the indefensible Two-Nation Theory, itself a theocratic State, with an extremely tenuous tradition of democracy - is unable to reconcile itself with the reality of a secular, democratic, self-confident and steadily progressing India."  

I hope the true meaning and content of the words used in this statement are understood by us also.  There is no doubt that the pernicious two-nation theory which gave birth to Pakistan, and which was rejected by this country, is in contrast to the secular foundations on which India was founded and has progressed so far; and this contrast should be constantly before our eyes. And, if this Government or any Government or any set of political parties try to lose sight of this, they are inviting trouble for this country, and for the future of our citizens.   

Our foremost duty, therefore, is that these secular credentials of our society should be zealously guarded, that everyone in authority from the Prime Minister downwards, should make sure that every incident and every effort to hamper the secular ethos should be strongly put down.  Therefore, when attempts are made, when people are trying to trifle with the secular ethos for mere political ends, and we seem to be winking at it, it means that we do not understand the real ingredients of this nation's unity.  If you weaken secularism, weaken the faith of the people of all communities and all religions in the country's secular ethos,  you are, in a sense, weakening the country, not strengthening it. 

And by statements alone, sounding very brave, sounding very ominous, you cannot put the idea across; it should be done by action.  When we see everywhere in this country that this Government is alert and is alive to the needs of secularism - wherever secularism is threatened -- and is acting impartially and strongly, we feel that the nation's will and determination to stand united is strengthened.  And, if we do that, I can tell you that nothing can weaken India.  This country has gone through the fire of struggle; it has gone through great crises; it has gone through every kind of calamity that one can imagine. But why has it come through?  Because, the founding fathers and those who followed them stood steadfastly on this issue.

When Mahatma Gandhi was murdered, it was tried to rationalise the event as an event which had occurred for the nation's benefit.  That is not a very old history.  It is less than 50 years old.  These are the matters which today are at stake.  I am happy that the statement has made a reference to this.  But mere reference here is not sufficient.  I would like to know whether this Government under the leadership of Shri Vajpayee is prepared to stand up against the threats to secularism and all issues that divide the civil society today.

There was a situation in 1971, when India had to stand up against the machinations of Pakistan in an entirely different context.  We still remember with pride how the then Prime Minister went from one capital to the other capital of the world patiently explaining to the people there as to what was at stake, why had that struggle been imposed on us; why was Pakistan in the wrong, and what was the burden that had fallen on the country.  That way she was able to create a unity of purpose in this country and the belief that we are standing for a just cause.  That is why even while the Sixth Fleet was cooling its heels in the Bay of Bengal, India went ahead and liberated Bangladesh.  

That is the sentiment, that is the feeling and that is the commitment which the nation has to call up at such moments of crisis.  I am happy to tell the Leader of the House that if that is the feeling, if that is the sentiment and if that is the commitment that this Government will bring up, it will not find us wanting in going an extra mile to see that the nationalist pride and the nation's future is assured in every way.

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