There was unease from the word go. When leader of Congress in the House Mallikarjun Kharge began speaking on "need for more effective mechanism to deal with communal violence", neither home minister Rajnath Singh nor minister of state for home Kiren Rijuju were present in the House. There were just around 55 members in the House.
Pointing out that even the MoS for home was not present in the House, Kharge said the government "cannot take it so lightly." Speaker Sumitra Mahajan adjourned the House for half an hour.
When the House resumed, Rijuju was present. Members poured in from both sides as Kharge's speech drew frequent uproar from the treasury benches. He alleged that over 600 incidents of violence against religious minorities had taken place in various states, including UP and Maharashtra, over two months after the Narendra Modi government came to power. This triggered protests from the BJP benches.
"Who is behind these? Who is instigating?" Kharge asked. When he referred to RSS affililates, it further agitated the BJP members.
Kharge questioned why such incidents had gone up. "These incidents take place when there is political power behind them. It happens where there is this feeling.... This will not go on for too long. The people will revert and teach you a lesson," he said cauioning against dividing society on religious lines.
BJP's Yogi Adityanath retaliated quoting figures of riots in states like UP, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala, where there were non-BJP governments.
"You claim you are secular but the agenda you implement is communal and he would have to seek an apology from the nation," he said.
The debate was taken up a week after Congress leader Rahul Gandhi led his party members into the well to demand an urgent discussion on the issue. The government is expected to reply on Thursday.