Charges and counter charges flew in the Lok Sabha on Monday over the issue of lynchings, with the Congress saying 'Hindustan' should not be allowed to become "lynchistan" and the government accusing the Opposition of enacting a "drama" in the name of secularism to defame Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The government asserted that mob-lynching or anything related to it was "unacceptable" and noted that the prime minister has himself condemned this several times while terming the acts as the "worst form of crime".
As the House discussed the issue of lynchings, Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju said it is the responsibility of the state governments to deal with such crimes and the Centre, on its part, has issued clear advisory in this regard.
"How is it possible for the Centre (to intervene in a state subject)? Does the opposition want the prime minister to break the federal structure and want the Centre to take over," Rijiju asked while replying to the debate.
The Congress, Left parties and the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen expressed unhappiness over the minister's reply and staged a walkout.
During the discussion on "incidents of atrocities and mob-lynching" in the country, members of all parties condemned the killings in the name of cow.
However, Opposition parties like the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Left and AIMIM accused the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government of encouraging groups behind the violence by cow vigilantes.
Initiating the debate, Leader of the Congress Mallikarjun Kharge said 'Hindustan' should not be allowed to become "lynchistan".
He alleged that this government was against minorities, Dalits and women, claiming that these sections had borne the maximum brunt of mob violence.
The prime minister says he is against such violence but what action has he taken, Kharge asked and added, "He (PM) says something and does something else."
He asked the government to give details of the action taken against the accused in these cases, claiming that they had become brazen because of lack of action.
Kharge, while citing the incidents of this year, said the lynchings had mostly happened in the BJP-ruled states and that there was an atmosphere of fear and terror across the country, which has brought a bad name to India in the world.
In his reply, Rijiju told the Opposition: "You have to stop vitiating the atmosphere of the country. If the prime minister has appealed, that should be respected. Everybody in India and outside is praising the prime minister. You get unmasked when you raise these issues. I am warning you. The more you malign us, we become stronger."
He added, "The image of the country does not get maligned by surgical strike (conducted by the Army), but by those who seek proof of it. The atmosphere does not get vitiated by respecting the army, but it does by calling the army chief by names."
Kharge accused organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal of being involved in such violence.
"It is also being done so that your ideology and philosophy could be established in the country," the Congress leader said, pointing to the BJP's "links" with these outfits.
BJP-ruled Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh had become centres of mob lynching, he said, adding that such incidents would become a major threat to the nation's integrity.
Rijiju countered, "They (Opposition parties) are trying to find a political link in this (lynchings) to malign the image of the prime minister. They have made a joke in the name of secularism and are doing a drama."
He said the figures of incidents of communal violence will "unmask" the Opposition.
Accusing the opposition of "selective amnesia", the minister said an environment is created in the country that there is intolerance and no freedom of expression.
"There is freedom of expression, but we will not spare anyone who will badmouth the country," he said.
Recalling Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi's visit to Jawaharlal Nehru University after its student leader Kanhaiya Kumar was arrested over alleged 'pro-Azadi' slogans, Rjiju said a majority of the students in the varsity are "desh bhakts" (patriots) but some vitiate it.
He said the atmosphere in the country is not vitiated by saying 'Bharat Mata ki Jai', but it does when someone talks of breaking the country into pieces.
Referring to the murder of a BJP worker in Kerala, Kharge said the Governor there summoned the DGP on the issue, but nothing of that sort was done in other states where lynching incidents took place.
In his reply, the MoS for Home Affairs said Kerala had reported the highest number of incidents of communal violence in 2014 when it was governed by the Congress.
Uttar Pradesh topped the list in 2015, followed by Telangana and Karnataka, he said. In 2016, Uttar Pradesh against reported highest number of cases of communal violence, followed by West Bengal and Kerala, Rijiju added.
In terms of attacks on scheduled castes in 2016, he said UP topped the list, followed by Bihar, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.
Referring to attacks on churches in Delhi ahead of the assembly polls in 2015, Rijiju said he had sought a report from the police commissioner on the incidents related to attacks on places of worships.
The data showed that over 300 incidents of attack related to temples, around 30 to gurudwaras, 40-50 to mosques and 4-5 to churches, the minister said, adding this was contrary to the impression created by the Opposition parties which "tarnished" the image of the country.
While attacking the Congress, Rijiju said, "I want to tell Congress that during the regime of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi an order was passed that no Christian missionary or Father can enter Arunachal Pradesh ..if they entered, they would be arrested...they did not even allow Mother Teresa."
Rijiju hails from Arunachal Pradesh.
He went on to add, "Until three years ago, there was this issue of corruption, but after Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, the issue of corruption is no more there...So you people (Opposition) are discussing mob lynching."
BJP members earlier objected to Kharge citing incidents, saying many of the cases he was referring to were sub-judice.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar also objected to his reference to former President Pranab Mukherjee's speech, saying it was against rules.
Kumar said action had been taken against the hooliganism which had taken place in the name of cow protection.
Arvind Sawant (Shiv Sena) said God had created man and "we have divided man into Hindu and Muslim. I pray that we work together for security and harmony" of the nation.
Jayadev Galla (Telugu Desam Party) said that mob violence represents the breakdown of law and order.
Whichever might be the time period, the mob violence has been increasing, he added.
He said if Sougata Roy (Trinamool Congress) says that 52 per cent of the mob lynching cases was from BJP-ruled states, then 48 per cent of the incidents have been from the non-BJP ruled states.
"All political parties are looking after themselves and see how they are dividing society," Galla said.
He further said that cow issue is not only social issue but it is also economic and environmental issue.
Mohammed Salim (Communist Party of India-Marxist) said nothing will happen just by merely criticising and added that efforts should be made to establish peace.
Kothapalli Geetha (YSR Congress Party) was of a view that there should be no blame game and "we should rise to fight this menace."
Considering lynching to be a very sensitive issue, Supriya Sule (Nationalist Congress Party) said the whole house need to condemn it.