The Smriti Irani Fact Or Fiction Test
NEW DELHI: Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani’s speech in the Lok Sabha has drawn quite a varied reaction. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted a link to the speech with the words, ‘'Satyamev Jayate'. On the other side of the reaction, questions have emerged regarding the veracity of what Irani said in Parliament, with the hashtag #KyunkiSmritiLiarHai trending on Facebook.
Almost immediately after Irani’s speech, Zikrullah Nisha posted a status to Facebook denying the HRD Minister’s claims regarding Dalit PhD scholar Rohith Vemula’s death. Nisha -- who called the health centre following Vemula’s death -- stated that “today MHRD minister lied to entire nation that no doctor and police were allowed to check the dead body till 6:30 AM of the next day.” Dr M Rajshree, the doctor on duty, also refuted Irani’s claim.
Other loopholes soon emerged. Irani’s claim that no pressure was levelled by Ministry of HRD on the Hyderabad Central University didn’t hold up as proof exists that the HRD wrote five letters to the HCU following a complaint by the BJP’s Union Minister of State for Labour Bandaru Dattatraya calling for action against “casteist” “anti-national” elements in the University. The letter, and the intervention that followed, presumably led to Vemula’s expulsion, along with four other Dalit scholars.
The HRD Minister also referred to the “demon” Mahishasur, adding “god forgive me reading this” as she read out a statement by “SC/ST and minority students of JNU” that called Durga Puja a “controversial racial festival.”
Incidentally, Mahishasur is a revered figure of tribes in West Bengal. Additionally, the BJP’s Delhi MP Udit Raj attended the 'Mahishasur Martyrdom Day' event -- the pamphlet of which Irani was reading and loudly objecting to -- at JNU in October 2013.
The Citizen #TCFactCheck debunks this, and more, of what Irani said in Parliament:
Meanwhile, Rohith Vemula’s family also hit out at the HRD Minister, accusing her of “lieing in Parliament.” "Smriti Irani, this is not a serial, this is real life. Bring out the facts, don't fabricate them," said Rohith's mother Radhika Vemula in Delhi, as quoted by NDTV. Rohith's brother Raja said, in reference to Irani’s claims that no doctor was allowed near the body, "These were absolute lies. The intent was to divert focus from an issue that has started troubling the BJP.”
The family also accused the minister of deliberately not talking about a letter that Rohith had written to the university days before his suicide, in which he had alleged discrimination and asked for "poison".
"He served notice to the Vice Chancellor saying 'I'm going to commit suicide'. This letter was never brought out by Smriti Irani. Why is she hiding this letter?" questioned Rohith's brother.
NDTV also quoted Raja on his identity as a Dalit -- which has been questioned by the BJP. "I was born a Dalit, raised as a Dalit, I suffered discrimination as a Dalit and now there are doubts being raised on whether Rohith was Dalit. My grandmother also testified and died after all the pressure that was put on her. How many from my family should die before we get justice?,” he said.