New Delhi: A student shouts at Home Minister P Chidambaram and accuses him of not allowing her to speak. The Minister invites her for tea. Once again Chidambaram did what he promises: his government will allow everybody to speak.
Chidambaram visited the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi on Wednesday night to address a seminar on 'Naxalism: A Threat to Indian Democracy and Internal Security', which was organised by the National Students Union of India (NSUI), the student wing of the Congress.
He was bombarded with questions by Vibha, who is studying for her doctorate in Economics at the University. "Mr Chidambaram, we want our freedom of speech," shouted Vibha, who goes by her first name. She was supported by a fellow student just as the Minister was concluding his speech.
NSUI leaders and security personnel tried to pacify the students, who refused to stop shouting until finally it caught Chidambaram's attention and he asked the two to come closer.
"Who is that lady? Please come here and kindly sit down," he said.
Women security personnel, who were dressed in plainclothes, had by then started pulling out the two students out of the hall. This angered the minister who had come dressed in a blue shirt and khaki pants--a contrast to his white dhoti shirt image.
"Ask that lady (policewoman) to come here. Why did you pull her? Why do you guys (police) stand everywhere? Go and sit down," said Chidambaram.
Vibha, who was given the first chance to speak, questioned Chidambaram on the rationale behind imposing AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act )in Manipur and the alleged harassment of Gandhian protester Irom Sharmila in that state.
"Your facts are totally wrong. You get them from newspapers and magazines which do not have the original documents. I would not fault you for that and if I was of your age, I would have also done the same," said Chidambaram.
"Many governments were there before UPA which continued AFSPA and I wish you were as passionate at that time also. I was the first minister to propose that either this act should be amended or repealed," he said.
"Consensus is needed for that and different political parties have different views on the issue but I am working on that," he added.
The student was not satisfied with the minister's answer. When she tried to ask another question, Chidambaram said: "My duty is to give an answer. Not to give the answer which you want to hear."
"People like you should come to power through democratic means and change the policies if you do not like them, but do not take up arms," he said pointing to her.
Pointing out to Arjun Sengupta Committee according to which 77 per cent Indians live on Rs 20 or less per day, the Ninister said, "If that is true, how can India have 60 crore mobile phones. This is a simple parameter to negate the report. I am sure I can help you being a better economist."
"I invite you for a personal debate on Vedanta (the international mining group). Come to my office, we will have tea and discuss," he said.
Vibha has accepted the tea invite. "I will try contacting Meenakshi Natrajan and fix a meeting with him. But he should have been more willing to interact with students. A hall of 200 students is too small. Like (Congress MP) Rahul Gandhi, he should have interacted in an open ground and faced tough questions," said Vibha.
Natrajan, an MP from Madhya Pradesh, is in the core team of Rahul Gandhi.