Express News Service

RANCHI:  A row over the Jharkhand government’s decision to allot a separate room for namaz at the As s embly reached the Jharkhand High Court on Tuesday, with a PIL seeking to quash the notification by the Speaker.

Meanwhile, the Assembly was disrupted for several hours when BJP leaders continued to chant Hanuman Chalisa at the entrance of the building.

On September 2, Speaker Rabindra Nath Mahto notified that a room has allotted for offering namaz. Objecting BJP members demanded a separate be allotted to them as well to chant Hanuman Chalisa.

According to petitioner Bhairav Singh, buildings constructed using public funds could not be allotted for religious purposes as such acts violated the principle of secularism and the right to equality.

Singh also challenged the notification by Speaker, saying he had no power to allot any room for offering prayers to the people of any community.

Meanwhile, BJP continued its protest inside and outside the Assembly for third consecutive day, demanding the withdrawal of the notification. On Monday, BJP leaders performed bhajan, while on Tuesday they chanted Hanuman Chalisa at the entrance of the Assembly.

BJP Legislative Party leader Babulal Marandi said Hanuman Chalisa is being recited to relieve Jharkhand Assembly from trouble. BJP’s chief whip Viranchi Narayan, however, said they did not want to recite Hanumna Chalisa at the Assembly as it is a temple of democracy, but they were compelled by the government’s action.

Accusing Hemant Soren government of practicing the politics of appeasement, MLA Randheer Singh said they will continue reciting Hanuman Chalisa till the notification was withdrawn.

However, Speaker Mahto defended his action, saying the room has been allotted to members of all communities to offer prayers, and was not exclusively given to Muslims.

BJP MLAs sat on the stairs at the entrance of the Assembly and chanted the Hanuman Chalisa and party MLA Narayan Das was seen wearing a garland made of ‘belpatra’ (wood apple leaves).

As soon as the House assembled, they began to vociferously protest against the allotment of the namaz room and the state’s employment policy even as Speaker Rabindra Nath Mahto repeatedly urged them to allow the House to function.

The unrelenting opposition members, however, continued to shout slogans during the question hour which lead to the adjournment of the House till 12.30 pm.

“No disrespect would be tolerated to the Chair. Beat me if you are angry, but don’t disrupt the proceedings,” Mahto was heard telling the protesting MLAs.

“Please go back to your seats . I am pained. The Chair is not a subject of mockery. Yesterday you behaved badly . This is the question of the faith of 3.5 crore people and your conduct gives pain,” he added.

In reply, BJP MLA C P Singh said though the Business Advisory Committee had decided to take up the employment policy issue it was changed.

“This (speaker’s statement) is an emotional statement. We are also sad. Speaker is supreme in the assembly but it hurts when we see that your behaviour is not impartial,” he told Mahto.

Amid the din, the speaker asked BJP MLA Bhanu Pratap Shahi to respect Hanuman Chalisa and not to use it for political gains.

He said may ‘Bajrang Bali’ grant wisdom to the agitating MLAs.

When the House reassembled after the adjournment, BJP members trooped into the well of the house and Singh demanded allocation of 30 minutes every Tuesday for recitation of Hanuman Chalisa.

“If a room can be alloted for Namaz, why can’t 30 minutes be allotted for Hanuman Chalisa? I take pride in being a Hindu,” Singh said.

Jharkhand Minister Mithlesh Thakur was heard voicing his protest and ruling JMM MLA Pradeep Yadav said that there should not be any politics in the name of God.

He demanded to know why BJP did not do so when it was in power in the state.

Mahto said the demand should come from majority of the speakers to which Singh immediately demanded to know which majority gave permission for a Namaz room in the Assembly.

The protest by BJP continued when the House reassembled at 2 pm.

Its members again stormed into the well of the house chanting slogans.

The House, however, took up the debate on the supplementary budget for 2021-22 amidst the din.

Ruckus by BJP over the allotment of a room for offering namaz in the assembly had disrupted proceedings on Monday as well.

The BJP is demanding the recall of the order pertaining to the allotment of the namaz room.

The speaker has allotted room number TW 348 for offering namaz, prompting demand from the BJP to build a Hanuman temple and places of worship of other religions in the assembly premises.

(With PTI Inputs)