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Homechevron_rightOpinionchevron_rightEditorialchevron_rightSuppression of dissent...

Suppression of dissent - there and here

Suppression of dissent - there and here

America and India are known as two models of democracy in the world. But currently both seem to harbour intolerance and suppression of diverse voices which is equally evident in th legislatures of both countries. In India, parliament Ethics Committee summoned MP Mahua Moitra, a prominent and outspoken member of opposition Trinamool Congress and questioned her following which it recommended the Lok Sabha Speaker to expel her. In the United States, the House of Representatives passed a motion to censure Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian American lawmaker for making 'anti-Semitic’ remarks and supporting a 'terrorist organization'. There is a slight difference though in the party position of both the countries. It was the ruling BJP that carried out the inquiry against Moitra in the Lok Sabha. The opposition opposed it. Although the opposition members in the ethics committee are in a minority, they walked out of the House in protest at the unfairness of the procedures. However, in the US House of Representatives President Joe Biden’s Democratic party has only 212 seats, whereas the opposition Republican party, with 221 members, holds the majority. However, the decision to censure the lawmaker received 234 votes; only 188 voted against this. This means that a few Democrats voted in favour of the censure. Significantly, prior to this, only 25 members had ever been censured in the history of the US Congress.

Also Read:Rashida Tlaib censured in US Congress with her party members' backing for comments against Israel

Rashida Tlaib, one of the only three Muslim representatives in the US Congress and a female member from Michigan, was accused of making anti-Israel comments, which led to her punishment. Critics are now on a watch for any reactions of Muslim members regarding the Israel-Palestine conflict. In the normal course, the Republican Party and the Democratic Party should have taken opposing stances in the US Congress, which is usually polarized along party lines. But when it came to the Israel-Palestine issue, the resolution moved by the Republican Party got the support of some from the Democratic Party as well. It is also true that four Republicans voted against the resolution on the grounds of free speech. This is the second time that Tlaib has been recommended for censure, a procedural step seen as one short of expulsion. A week ago, a resolution moved by a Republican member with the same allegation was rejected due to technical reasons. This is the background for the latest censure motion. Earlier, the Somalia-born second female lawmaker of the House Ilhan Umar, was given a 'warning' for her comments about the influence of the pro-Israel lobby on the American foreign policy.

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Although Tlaib has ample makings to annoy the pro-Israel lobby, she did condemn the attack carried out by Hamas on October 7. She had also said that Israeli lives mattered as much as those of Palestinians did. But the pro-Israeli critics pointed out a video Tlaib posted on social media in which the anti-Israeli protestors raised slogans about a free Palestine. And the punishment came by interpreting the slogans as pro-Hamas chants calling for the ‘destruction of Israel’. Tlaib, who refused to withdraw it, said that the slogan was an ‘aspirational call for freedom’, a defence the House members couldn’t accept. The allegation raised against her in the censure motion was that she justified the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel and also ‘promoted false narratives’ regarding the bombing of the Al-Ahli Hospital in Gaza. Multiple sources have reported that Israel targeted the hospital. But in the US Congress, which is celebrated as a model of democracy, this exhibited a case where there is no freedom to speak according to one’s conscience. Tlaib said that the idea that criticising the Israeli government is anti-Semitic sets a very dangerous precedent. Tlaib, who also has roots in the West Bank, also said that she “will not be silenced” and that she would not “let you distort my words”.

Also Read:Why expel Moitra when nothing has been proved? TMC hits back

It is a similar response, in a similar tone that was given by MP Mahua Moitra in similar circumstances. In India, the world's largest democracy, she took a dogged stand against the critics. She faces allegations of accepting bribes to frame questions in the House targeting Gautam Adani, who has a close relationship with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his investments. Her demand to cross-examine the complainants in the Ethics Committee was also rejected. Moitra was not given any opportunity to explain her side or to prove that the allegations against her were false. Thus what happened in Delhi was a conspiracy to disqualify or expel a member on the basis of a mere numerical majority. The attempts to silence dissenting voices in a democracy by using the very institutions of democracy shouldn’t go unnoticed. Resistance against them should continue too.

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TAGS:Rashida TlaibMahua MoitraEditorialUS CongressIndia NewsIsrael Palestine ConflictEthics Committee
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