BJP leader stokes controversy in Odisha assembly

A senior BJP leader on Thursday stoked controversy in the Odisha Assembly when he said that Muslim women. (PTI Photo)

A senior BJP leader on Thursday stoked controversy in the Odisha Assembly when he said that Muslim women "dominated the red-light areas of Mumbai and Kolkata" due to the practice of triple talaq.

BC Sethi, the deputy leader of the BJP in the House, quoted "survey reports" from magazines and newspapers during Zero Hour to justify his claim even as members of the Congress and the ruling BJD demanded that the statement be immediately expunged from the records.

Later outside the House, the Congress demanded an unconditional apology from Sethi for his remarks.

"What is wrong in quoting survey reports in the House? I have not made any adverse remark against any community, but quoted survey reports that say Muslim women dominate the red-light areas in Mumbai and Kolkata," Sethi said.

He was replying to Congress members, who had criticised the BJP-led central government for pushing through the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill in Parliament.

The agitating Congress members demonstrated in the well of the House forcing Speaker S N Patro to adjourn the proceeding for seven consecutive times.

The Speaker's effort to resolve the issue through an all-party meeting also failed to yield any result. The House could transact no business after Sethi's remark due to the pandemonium.

However, the first special supplementary statement of expenditure for recoupment of advance from Odisha Contingency Fund for 2019-20 was passed before Patro adjourned the House till Friday.

Earlier, Sethi claimed that some political parties, with an eye on minority votes, were opposing the triple talaq legislation.

"The opponents of the 'triple talaq' bill should keep it in mind that the legislation was passed in Parliament on humanitarian grounds to protect the interest of the women at large," the BJP leader said.

The practise of "triple talaq" was abolished in 38 countries including Pakistan and Bangladesh, he maintained.

"The 'triple talaq' bill has nothing to do with religion and is aimed at eradicating social evil. One cannot divorce his wife just by uttering 'talaq-talaq-talaq' in an inebriated state or via a mobile phone message," he said.

Speaker Patro said he would examine the remarks of the BJP member and requested the agitating Congress lawmakers to return to their seats.

When the agitating MLAs refused to budge and attempted to climb up to the speaker's podium, Patro adjourned the proceedings several times and finally till Friday.

BJD member and former minister S B Behera said, "What the BJP member has said is not acceptable in a democracy. His statement is objectionable as well as controversial."

Meanwhile, in a press conference, Odisha Congress president Niranjan Patnaik demanded an unconditional apology from Sethi for his remarks.

"BJP leaders should learn how to respect women. Sethi must apologies in the House. Otherwise, the Congress will launch a statewide dharna," he said.

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