Modi opens new parliament amid opposition boycott

Published May 29, 2023
This handout photograph taken on May 28 and released by the Indian Press Information Bureau (PIB) shows India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking during the inauguration ceremony of the new parliament building in New Delhi. — AFP
This handout photograph taken on May 28 and released by the Indian Press Information Bureau (PIB) shows India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaking during the inauguration ceremony of the new parliament building in New Delhi. — AFP

NEW DELHI: Flanked by priests, Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a new Indian parliament on Sunday in a ceremony steeped in religious symbolism but boycotted by opposition parties.

The hexagonal new building — shaped like a coffin, one opposition party said — is the centrepiece of a remodelling of the heart of New Delhi by Modi aimed at ridding the Indian capital of the vestiges of British colonial rule.

“India is not only a democratic nation but also the mother of democracy,” Modi said. “This is not just a building … this is the temple of democracy that gives the world a message of India’s determination.”

The unveiling was preceded by a multi-faith prayer ceremony and Modi later entered the chamber accompanied by a posse of chanting Hindu seers in saffron robes before installing a ceremonial sceptre.

Police detain protesting wrestlers demanding arrest of the sport body’s chief over sexual harassment

Nineteen opposition parties boycotted the event because Modi, and not Indian President Droupadi Murmu, was inaugurating the new chamber, calling it a “direct assault on our democracy”.

Modi “has relentlessly hollowed out” parliament, with opposition lawmakers “disqualified, suspended and muted” and laws passed “with almost no debate”, a statement by the parties said.

Wrestlers arrested

Indian police dragged away and detained on Sunday two Olympic wrestlers and dozens of others as they tried to march to parliament demanding the arrest of the sport’s federation chief over allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation.

In an escalation of the month-old standoff, police also cleared the site in central New Delhi where the wrestlers have been camped out while calling for the arrest of Brij Bhushan Singh, an AFP journalist at the scene said. The wrestlers attempted to march to India’s new parliament on Sunday just as it was being inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but they were halted by some of the hundreds of police on duty for the event.

Published in Dawn, May 29th, 2023

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