Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the new Indian parliament building yesterday in a ceremony steeped in religious symbolism, surrounded by priests. However, the event was boycotted by opposition parties. The new hexagonal building, which an opposition party has criticised for its coffin-like shape, is the focal point of Modi’s plan to remodel the heart of New Delhi, eradicating the remnants of British colonial rule.
At the inauguration, Modi stated…
“India is not only a democratic nation but also the mother of democracy,” adding, “This is not just a building… this is the temple of democracy that gives the world a message of India’s determination.”
The event began with a multi-faith prayer ceremony, followed by Modi entering the chamber accompanied by Hindu seers in saffron robes, chanting as they installed a ceremonial wand.
India, a country with a population of 1.4 billion and a strictly secular constitution is home to numerous faiths. Members of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) often promote the idea of Hindu hegemony within the Hindu-majority nation. The inauguration ceremony coincided with the birth anniversary of Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, a key Hindu ideologue and mentor to Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin, reports Bangkok Post.
Nineteen opposition parties boycotted the event, arguing that it was a “direct assault on our democracy” as Modi, not Indian President Droupadi Murmu, inaugurated the new chamber. They accused Modi of “relentlessly hollowing out” parliament, with opposition lawmakers “disqualified, suspended and muted” and laws passed “with almost no debate.”
The new parliament building, which will replace the old colonial-era structure designed by British architects Edwin Lutyens and Herbert Baker in the 1920s, stands adjacent to the ageing and cramped existing building. In February, the legislature experienced a series of disruptions as the government blocked opposition demands, led by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, for an investigation into ties between Modi and tycoon Gautam Adani. Adani’s business empire has faced allegations of accounting fraud, which it denies.
Rahul Gandhi, a member of India’s most famous political dynasty, was disqualified from the lower parliament house after being sentenced to two years imprisonment in an unrelated criminal defamation case over a campaign remark in 2019.
Yesterday, Gandhi tweeted…
“The prime minister is considering the inauguration of Parliament House as a coronation.”
Amit Malviya, head of the BJP’s social media campaign, defended the inauguration, highlighting the 1927 inauguration of the old parliament building by the British viceroy, attended by Gandhi’s great-great-grandfather Motilal Nehru. Malviya argued that the Congress party, which had no issue “genuflecting in front of the British” back then, now has a problem attending the inauguration led by a democratically elected prime minister.
Meanwhile, police detained several wrestlers, including Olympic medallists, and their supporters as they attempted to march to parliament. The wrestlers have been staging a sit-in since last month, demanding the arrest of Brij Bhushan Singh, the wrestling federation chief and BJP lawmaker, over allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation that he denies. Olympic bronze medallists Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia were among those detained.
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