Smriti Irani’s speech in the Lok Sabha was intense, fiery and also high on rhetoric. While that ensured she trended on social media for at least two days, it has also got her brickbats, and some rebuttals. Some of the rather explosive statements she made seemed to have put the opposition on back-foot then, but are now being fired back at her.
Here’s a list of such controversies that are now awaiting a response from Irani:
- That nobody cared to call a doctor to examine Rohith Vemula’s body
Irani’s claim: Rohith Vemula’s body was not taken to a doctor after he was found hanging inside his friend’s room in the university campus on January 17. The minister claimed no medical aid was provided to Vemula nor was any effort was made to revive him
Counter: Dr M Rajshree, the Hyderabad Central University’s medical officer, who was on duty then said she was the one who examined the body and declared him dead at 7.30pm. “I am a medical doctor and I have enough experience and competence to examine and determine if a person can be revived. In my opinion, Rohith was dead for probably 2-3 hours by the time he was found,” she told Indian Express. Rohith’s brother Raja too countered the claim at a press conference in Delhi on Thursday, “I reached the university at 8.30 pm. I can personally verify that a doctor and policemen were inside.”
- That Rohith was not denied scholarship money after suspension
Irani’s claim: That Rohith wasn’t denied scholarship money after suspension. “The impression being created that Rohith was denied his scholarship money is wrong,” Irani said.
Counter: Rohith’s mother Radhika Vemula on Thursday said, “HRD minister is lying, my son never received the stipend for seven months (after being suspended).”
- That a Mumbai school is still using a book by Teesta Setalvad that is too communal for kids
Irani’s claim: To claim that the Congress introduced animosity between communities at a very young age, Irani read out from a book she said was written by Teesta Setalvad, commissioned by Kapil Sibal during UPA regime. She claimed it is in the curriculum of Class 4 at Don Bosco Boys School in Matunga, Mumbai.
Reading out excerpts about Shivaji, Akbar, Aurangzeb, Hindu-Christian riots in Kanyakumari, the “propaganda” of Hindu organisations targeting Christian minorities, Irani had concluded, “You are teaching this to a child in the 4th standard. This is their idea of secular education!” she had thundered.
Counter: The administration of the Matunga school has refuted the claim saying the handbook was discontinued way back on 2001 within a year of its introduction, after a series of protests by Shiv Sena. Father Bernard Fernandes, school principal, told Indian Express, “These were no textbooks but handbooks…They were discontinued immediately after a year they were introduced. Today, none of our teachers use these handbooks.”
- That the pamphlet she read out from was circulated by Mahishasur Divas organisers at JNU
Irani’s claim: She has read from a pamphlet about controversial references to Goddess Durga allegedly distributed at JNU in which Goddess Durga is depicted as a ‘sex worker’.
Counter: Anil Kumar, a student organiser of the Mahishasur Martyrdom Day in JNU in 2014, said, Irani was lying. “The pamphlet that Smriti Irani was reading in Parliament on Wednesday was not written by me or any of my mates. The pamphlet she is seen holding in the speech is a colourful one which is never used in any JNU protest due to high printing costs. It is a fake document and the minister is lying,” he told media.