‘I Am A Durga Worshipper,’ Says Smriti Irani Amid Apology Demands: 10 Developments

NEW DELHI: Union Minister Smriti Irani today said she was a “practising Hindu and Goddess Durga worshipper” while the opposition aggressively demanded her apology in the Rajya Sabha for reading out controversial references to the deity yesterday.
Here are 10 developments in the story:
As the opposition shouted that the house would not run without the minister’s apology, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson PJ Kurien said he would examine the records of yesterday’s debate and “anything blasphemous” would be removed.
On Thursday, Smriti Irani was replying to a debate on the arrest of JNU students on sedition charges and the suicide of Hyderabad student Rohith Vemula, incidents cited by the opposition as examples of the government trying to suppress dissent.
To demonstrate what she called the “depraved mentality” of a section of JNU students, the education minister started reading from a pamphlet allegedly circulated on campus, which had derogatory references to Goddess Durga.
The minister also referred to “Mahishasur Martyrdom Day” reportedly observed at JNU or the Jawaharlal Nehru University. Amid opposition protests, the house was adjourned before she could complete her reply.
Ms Irani said today: “I read it because I was asked to explain what the truth is. I said it with a lot of pain. I myself am a practising Hindu, I myself am a Durga worshipper. These are authenticated documents from the university itself.”
The Congress demanded an unconditional apology from the minister.
“Anything inflammatory about any God, Prophet, spoken by any member, especially the minister, will not be taken. We want the minister to be arrested and charged. Anything blasphemous should not be said in this house,” said Congress leader Anand Sharma.
The government, however, said it did not believe the minister should apologise and she should be allowed to complete her reply. “We know our duties, we know that we have to stop any sort of anti-national activities. When the Minister continues with her reply you will understand,” said union minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
For three days, the government and the opposition have exchanged in Parliament allegations linked to JNU students who have been charged with sedition over an event on February 9 in support of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru, during which anti-India slogans were raised.
The fight and multiple disruptions threaten to hold up important legislation including the GST or Goods and Services Tax bill.