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Engage in debate not vandalism to express views: Jaitley

Arun Jaitley

New Delhi : Union minister Arun Jaitley today came out strongly against the “extremely disturbing trend” of people resorting to vandalism to register contrarian views and said there has to be a proper “civilised mode” of discussing and debating issues.

“All right-thinking sections will have to distance themselves from these kind of methodologies,” he said in the backdrop of a series of incidents including where BJP ally Shiv Sena stormed the BCCI headquarters and blackened the face of Sudheendra Kulkarni in Mumbai.

Asked about the tactics employed by Shiv Sena to register protests, he said the same standard of civility applies to all.

He also said that the BJP President has “strongly” taken up with the “few leaders” in his party, who had made statements on sensitive issues, adding, the Prime Minister Narendra Modi had conveyed his views.

Jaitley said that those using these methods must also “introspect” whether they are adding to the quality of Indian democracy or are they really reducing the credibility of India as a country before the yes of the world itself.

Noting that it was “an extremely disturbing trend” where some people have been resorting to vandalism as an instrument of registering their protest or conveying their views, the minister said it is quite possible that in a large country like India there may be “divergent views” on many subjects.

“But we had a tradition of civility in conveying those different opinions. Also particularly because some of these issues are extremely serious,” the Finance Minister told reporters in his office.

He said some issues can reflect on inter-community relations while others can reflect on sensitive areas such as Jammu and Kashmir.

“There are issues which impinge on our relations with our neighbouring countries and therefore there has to be a proper civilised mode of discussing and debating these issues,” he said.

Jaitley said he has no problem if people convey contrarian view because that is the essence of democracy and debate.

“But the debate will have to be conducted in a manner in which we are able to raise the level of debate rather than use vandalism as an instrument for registering our opinion or protests,” he said.

Jaitley, who is also the Finance Minister, said he feels that it is extremely important that people indulging in this are strongly criticised.

“All right thinking sections will have to distance themselves from these kind of methodologies which are being used.

“And those who are using these methods must also introspect whether they are adding to the quality of Indian democracy or they are really reducing the credibility of India as a country before the yes of the world itself,” he said.

He added that what is “disturbing” is when these acts of vandalism are increasingly “publicised”, many others are feeling encouraged to use similar methods.

“So, you have actually seen a kind of copycat vandalism in at least two-three parts of the country in the last few days where protest have been registered,” he said.

Jaitley hoped that everyone sees reason and they are able to conduct discussions, debates and difference of opinion in public space in a more civilised manner.

Asked about its own ally Shiv Sena indulging in vandalism, Jaitley said, “I think this applies equally to all. We will all have to have a same standard whether it is somebody belonging to political opposition or somebody belonging to a political friend.

“I think the fact that we have to to convey our opinion and differences in a more restrained manner is something which all of us have to realise”.

Replying to a question on “loose cannons” in his own party, Jaitley said, “I don’t think anybody in the BJP have resorted to these methods. Some people, a very few, two-three made some statements on sensitive issue and the party President has strongly taken it up with them”.

He said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has conveyed his views and therefore all of them have been spoken to.

“I am sure all our spokesmen have been conducting themselves in accordance with the spirit which I have just represented,” he said.

His comments also comes a day after President Pranab Mukherjee expressed serious apprehensions over whether tolerance and acceptance of dissent are “on the wane” in the country.

The President’s strong condemnation came on a day when an independent MLA from Jammu and Kashmir Sheikh Abdul Rashid was the target of a fringe Hindu outfit which threw ink and mobil oil on him at the Press Club in Delhi protesting against the beef party he held in Srinagar earlier this month. He had also been beaten up in the state assembly by BJP MLAs for doing so.

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