Mumbai: 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".
- Parties back suspension citing 'unparliamentary language against nation'
- 'Suspension is murder of democracy', says Waris Pathan from Owaisi's MIM
- Yesterday, Asaduddin Owaisi said he will not say 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai'
"I am proud of being an Indian," Mr Pathan said, describing his suspension for the rest of this session as "the murder of democracy". He added, "I say 'Hindustan Zindabad'. Not Bharat Mata Ki Jai."
Mr Owaisi, chief of the MIM, a Muslim party, instigated a major controversy and outrage, including among prominent Muslims like Javed Akhtar, by publicly declaring this week that he will not say "Bharat Mata Ki Jai", which, he said, finds no mention in the constitution, even if "a knife is put to my throat".
He was retaliating to a recommendation by Mohan Bhagwat for nationalist slogans to be encouraged at universities. Mr Bhagwat heads the RSS, the ideological parent of the ruling BJP.
A politically-charged debate over what is anti-nationalism was driven by the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, a student at Delhi's Jawaharal Nehru University, on charges of sedition. Critics of the government say it is trying to crush dissent and impede free speech among campuses. Ministers have said any anti-India acts will not be tolerated.
The uproar in the Maharashtra Assembly began today after an MIM member questioned spending money on memorials. When asked by a Shiv Sena legislator if he can demonstrate his patriotism by saying "Bharat Mata Ki Jai", Mr Pathan refused, reiterating the argument offered by his party chief, Mr Owaisi.
It was the Congress that first proposed his suspension, though in the JNU controversy, the party took on the government with great fervor, declaring it was not upto the administration to define what is acceptable as patriotism.
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 incendiary remarks, and has been accused of multiple hate speeches.