The Latest: Top stories of the day
1. No passenger fare hikes in this year's rail budget.
2. Six militants, including an alleged Jaish-e-Mohammad member, were arrested in Jammu and Kashmir for their attack on an army camp in the Tangdhar sector.
3. In Maharashtra, 247 children fall ill after eating a mid-day meal served at a zilla parishad school in Palghar district.
4. Hyderabad University medical examiner refutes Human Resources Minister Smriti Irani's claim that no doctor was allowed to revive Rohith Vemula.
The Big Story: Making the cut
After the speeches, the editing for posterity. Parliament has seen some fine performances these last two days, by Human Resources Development Minister Smriti Irani, Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia and even by the Janata Dal (United) member of Parliament, KC Tyagi. But they all took liberties with speech.
Irani's speech, for instance, will go down without the word "dushkarm (misdeed)", which she used while objecting to Scindia's use of the same word earlier. But Scindia's speech saw slightly heavier pruning; it will be set down in the records minus "OP Sharma", "RSS" and "Nathuram Godse". Tyagi, who had called the HRD minister "ManuSmriti Irani", objected to the sentence being expunged from the records; last he checked, "Manu" was not among the list of names disallowed by the House. What stayed, however, were the names of the eight JNU students accused of sedition, listed out by Irani. This even though the House rules apparently state that no member shall "refer to any matter of fact on which a judicial decision is pending”.
For an arena that has seen some fairly rousing debates, Parliament is surprisingly prudish about what can be said in the House and what cannot. Article 105(2) of the Constitution grants MPs freedom of speech but forbids "defamatory, indecent and unparliamentary" language. Over the years, an array of words have qualified for this category. Mother Teresa and Shah Rukh Khan are "strangers" who cannot be mentioned in the House, and "Hitler" is as good as a word of abuse. Godse's name has long been unspeakable in the House. MPs must also be careful not to call anyone a "chor" or refer to them being "illiterate". Using words like "tai tai phiss", "jokeron", "chamchon", "jhooth" and "dhokha" are also bad House manners.
With so many rules and conditions, is it any wonder that our MPs use other eloquent means to express themselves? A mic or a chair hurled in the right direction, for instance, can speak a thousand words. And, labouring under so many restrictions themselves, can you blame them for spotting sedition everywhere?
Politicking and policying
1. Former finance and home minister P Chidambaram says there is no case for sedition against Jawaharlal Nehru University students.
2. Vijay Mallya steps down as non-executive chairman of United Spirits Limited.
3. Union Minister Ram Kripal Yadav told Parliament on Wednesday that India accounts for nearly 60% of the people defecating in the open.
1. In the Indian Express, Sangita Dasgupta talks about Umar Khalid, her student.
2. In the Hindu, NK Singh speaks of the great expectations to balance the budget.
3. In the Telegraph, Swapan Dasgupta pontificates on the limits of freedom in autonomous universities.
Shikha Mukherjee on Cooch Behar's old demand for a separate state from West Bengal:
The demand for special status for it as a tribal majority area or Union Territory status has been around since 1947, when it was shorn of its special status as a Union Territory under the Articles of Accession.
The movement cannot be described as anti-national, because it is not a demand for separate nationhood unlike the one in Kashmiris or Manipur or even Nagaland.
Cooch Behar’s importance lies in its location – it is the vulnerable chicken’s neck connecting the rest of India to North Bengal and Assam and the rest of the North East by rail and road.
As a place of competing demands for separate homelands, North Bengal and the North Bank of Assam have much in common. Burgeoning aspirations of tribal communities in inaccessible or interior places have bred a new and violent identity politics.
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