Cameras off, microphones muted: What happened in RS amid ruckus

The Opposition members rushed to the Well after their demand for a division of votes was declined

Rajya Sabha
Ruckus erupts in the Rajya Sabha as Opposition rushes to Well of House over agriculture related bills | Photo: PTI

Sunday’s action-packed Rajya Sabha proceedings went off-air for a certain amount of time that led to cries of ‘censorship’ in the Opposition camp. Microphones were broken and there were allegations of the House rule book been torn against the Opposition MPs.

Two farm bills — The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 — were up for voting when the ruckus ensued in the House.

Amid the ruckus, the bills were passed by voice vote.

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But what happened when the cameras and were turned off and microphones muted? Here’s a detailed account of what happened thereafter and what led to unruly scenes in the sacred institution that’s supposed to be the temple of democracy, according to the lawmakers.

Related news: Suspension of 8 MPs: Rahul calls it ‘muting of democratic India’

The ruckus ensued after the government, bent on the passage of the bills, turned down the Opposition’s demand that the agriculture minister’s reply to the bill and voting be taken up in the Rajya Sabha on Monday since it was past the 1-pm deadline.

The Opposition leaders’ demand for sending the bills to a select parliamentary committee was also denied, so was the demand for division of votes.

“When even one opposition member asks for a division (of votes), there should be voting, actual voting, and not just the voice vote,” said Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien who was seen waving the House rule book to the deputy chairman during the ruckus.

In a video update later, O’Brien said four members, including him, had put in resolutions asking for actual voting. “The Chair has to grant you that right…but today, that right was taken away from the Opposition,” said O’Brien.

Related news: Derek O’Brien, 7 others suspended for ruckus in Rajya Sabha over farm bills

And the ruckus ensued. Reports suggest TMC’s Arpita Ghosh and Dola Sen, Congress MPs Kumari Shelja and Jairam Ramesh, and AAP MP Sanjay Singh were the first to rush to the Well of the House, followed by Derek O’Brien.

O’Brien has admitted that microphones were broken during the ruckus by Opposition MPs but denied that he tore pages from the rule book. Rajya Sabha footage reportedly showed DMK MP Tiruchi Siva throwing a book while O’Brien waved the rule book at the Chair.

Soon, as the Opposition MPs resorted to a sit-in inside the Rajya Sabha, the video feed was cut and the microphones were muted. At this juncture, the Opposition MPs felt the need for independently filming the proceedings and Ghosh and Sen started capturing the drama.

The videos, recorded inside the Upper House, are being widely shared on the social media, however, filming inside the House is a violation of House rules. “There were 2-3 Opposition MPs who took out their phones and I told them to shoot,” said O’Brien, unapologetically.

Related news: Farm bills cleared by voice vote amid RS ruckus, farmer protests

In one of the videos, Sanjay Singh was purportedly seen standing reported on the table of the secretary-general. He was seen being whisked away by the marshalls while Congress’s Digvijaya Singh tried to intervene in a bid to protect the AAP lawmaker.

In another footage, Congress MPs Rajiv Satav and Ripun Bora were reportedly seen sitting on a table in front of the chairman before being forced to alight the table by the marshals. Cries of “Modi tum sharam karo” and “Modi sarkar haay haay” echoed in the Upper House.

Eight MPs — Derek O’Brien, Sanjay Singh, Raju Satav, KK Ragesh, Ripun Bora, Dola Sen, Syed Nazir Hussain and Elamaran Karim — were suspended for one week for their unruly behaviour with the Chair during the Sunday session.

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