Mumbai, NDTV: Waris Pathan, a member of Asaduddin Owaisi’s party, has been suspended from the legislature in Maharashtra after he refused to say “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”. Other parties unanimously backed the action against him, citing unparliamentary language “against the nation”.
Mr Owaisi, chief of the MIM, a Muslim party, instigated a major controversy and outrage, including among prominent Muslims like Javed Akhtar, said this week that he will not say “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” even if “a knife is put to my throat” because it is not constitutionally required of him as an elected representative.
Mr Owaisi made his remarks at a public speech in Maharashtra this week. He was retaliating to a recommendation by Mohan Bhagwat for nationalist and patriotic slogans to be encouraged at universities.
Mr Bhagwat heads the RSS, the ideological parent of the ruling BJP.
The political recriminations come after the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, a student at Delhi’s Jawaharal Nehru University, on charges of sedition, which escalated into a huge debate over whether the government is trying to crush dissent and impede free speech among campuses.
After an MIM member of the Maharashtra Assembly questioned spending money on memorials, he was asked by a shiv Sena legislator if he respects patriots and would say “Bharat Mata Ki Jai”. Mr Pathan then said the slogan is not a mentioned in the constitution and that his party members are willing to say “Jai Hind” instead.
It was the Congress that first proposed his suspension. In the JNU controversy, the Congress took on the government with great fervor, stating that it would fight for free speech and students who must be allowed to question the administration and its policies.
In 2014, Mr Owaisi’s party contested elections outside his home state of Telangana for the first time, and won two seats in Maharashtra. He is known for his incendiary remarks made to polarize voters, and has been accused of multiple hate speeches.