New Delhi: The Congress on Monday vehemently opposed the government's move to end the automatic nomination of the Congress President to the Jallianwala Bagh National Bagh Memorial Trust, calling it an "arbitrary act".
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor led the charge while opposing the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial (Amendment) Bill, 2019 that was introduced by the government in the Lok Sabha.
Tharoor asked the government not to betray history and heritage by removing the Congress President, citing the grand old party's long association with the trust.
Introducing the Bill, Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel said it was passed in the 16th Lok Sabha but could not be passed in Rajya Sabha where the government lacked majority.
"I will respond to every issue raised by members during the debate," Patel said, pointing out that the Congress President had been a trustee for 45-50 years.
The Bill amends the Jallianwala Bagh National Memorial Act, 1951.
Under the 1951 Act, the Trustees of the Memorial include the Prime Minister as Chairperson, the President of the Indian National Congress, the Minister in-charge of Culture, the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, the Governor and Chief Minister of Punjab and three eminent persons nominated by the central government.
The Bill amends the provision so as to remove the Congress President as a Trustee. It also says that when there is no Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha, then the leader of the single largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha will be the Trustee.
The Centre's move comes during the centenary commemoration of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre.
Tharoor said the removal of the Congress President from the Memorial Trust betrayed "arbitrary action" of the government.
"The Bill was moved in the Parliament by Dr Ambedkar in 1951 to make the Congress President an ex-officio trusty because there would be no Jallianwala Bagh Memorial without the Congress. We were the one who raised the money to build the memorial. It is the denial of the fact of the country and the freedom struggle. Therefore it must be stopped," Tharoor said.
Second, the Bill empowers the Centre to remove nominated trustees before the completion of their term without assigning any reason, he said.
"So, this is another arbitrary act. This power can easily be used to remove the trustees who don't agree with the government views or ruling party's views.
"This is a national heritage. We have no objection if their nominees are there. They should not object if the President of Congress is there. This is a national freedom struggle. On the Centenary year, please don't betray our history and heritage," Tharoor added.
The Act provides that the three eminent persons nominated by the central government will have a term of five years and will be eligible for re-nomination.
The Bill allows the central government to terminate the term of a nominated trustee before the expiry of his term without assigning any reason.