For four consecutive days last week the Jharkhand Assembly resonated with chants of ‘Hare Rama, Hare Krishna’ and high-pitched recitation from Hanuman Chalisa. Opposition members of the Jharkhand Assembly, who had chosen to devote almost the entire session—four out of five days—to this display of devotion, were dressed for the occasion in ‘holy’ attire.
While legislative luminaries from the BJP benches turned the Assembly premises into a religious ‘Akhara’, the neighbourhood was far from amused, not used to the cacophony. People also questioned the wisdom of the opposition boycotting the legislature’s session to approve the supplementary budget. The boycott by the opposition and the din created by the chanting outside the House forced the Speaker to adjourn proceedings on all four days.
Unruly scenes were witnessed when BJP MLAs disrupted proceedings and climbed on top of the Assembly reporters’ table till they were forcibly removed by the Marshals. The MLAs then organized an equally unruly demonstration outside the House that led to the police resorting to a ‘lathi charge’.
The protest by the opposition was against a notification by the Speaker Rabindra Mahato in allotting a room for Muslim employees, officials and MLAs to offer prayers or ‘Namaz’, especially on Fridays. Enraged BJP MLAs demanded the withdrawal of the notification and threatened that unless the notification was withdrawn, they would not allow the House to conduct any business. Or else, they insisted, the Speaker must allot a place for worshipping Hindu deities.
The one-line notification on September 02, 2021, issued by the Deputy Secretary, that in the new Assembly building (where the State Assembly has of late shifted) Room No TW-348 was allotted for offering Namaz, was variously described as unconstitutional and yet another instance of ‘Muslim appeasement’.