Government agrees to debate on Gaza, but says not now

New Delhi, July 17 : The Rajya Sabha was stalled Thursday as opposition members demanded a debate on the Israel-Palestinian conflict in the Gaza Strip. While the chairman agreed, the government wanted to do it another day. The government had Wednesday blocked the debate, saying rules did not allow “discourteous reference” towards “friendly nations”. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj wrote to the chairman, urging him not to allow the debate.

However, as the chairman agreed to the debate Thursday, the government said another day should be fixed to take up the matter. This led to an uproar as the opposition refused to take up any other business before the debate. Government members suggested that the discussion on the railway budget should be taken up, and the other debate can be scheduled for some other day. ”The business advisory committee will meet at 4 p.m. We can decide when the debate has to be taken up,” said Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prakash Javadekar.

An agitated opposition, however, insisted that the debate be taken up promptly and urged Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien to give a ruling immediately. Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal suggested that the debate be taken up under a rule which allows suspending all other rules. ”Either the debate shall be taken up immediately, or we can take it under rule 267, which suspends all other rules,” Agarwal said. Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said India also had economic interests in West Asia.

“Peace in West Asia is in the interest of India,” Azad said. As the opposition continued its uproar demanding that the debate be taken up immediately, the business in the Rajya Sabha was disrupted. The upper house was repeatedly adjourned, losing its question hour, before the chair adjourned it till 2 p.m. When the house reassembled, the scene was no different as both sides remained adamant on their stand.

While the deputy chairman said the debate cannot be taken without the government agreeing to it, some members quoted rules and said the Leader of the House shall be consulted but a consent was not necessary. As the deputy chairman gave the go-ahead for discussion on the railway budget, agitated opposition members gathered near the chairman’s podium, creating a ruckus. The house was then adjourned for the day, without transacting any major business.

According to an official spokesperson in Gaza, the death toll since the beginning of the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip July 8 has climbed to 227, while 1,685 people have been injured, more than half of them civilian women and children.