Indian government accused of ‘demolishing democracy’ after mass suspension of opposition MPs

Move follows last week’s security breach and comes as a number of important bills are to be voted on

India’s parliament has suspended 141 opposition MPs for demanding a discussion on a security breach last week.

Many of the suspended MPs, who were calling for a statement from either home affairs minister Amit Shah or prime minister Narendra Modi on the intrusion by two men into the newly inaugurated parliament house, have been barred from attending the rest of the winter session, which ends on Friday.

The two intruders shouted slogans and fired acrid smoke at the parliament’s internal walls before being overpowered.

Mr Modi, who heads India’s Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) government, endorsed the suspension and accused the opposition MPs of both politicising the security incident and of ”directly or indirectly” supporting the intruders.


Addressing party MPs on Tuesday, the prime minister also said opposition lawmakers were disrupting parliament as a result of their frustration over losing a series of key state elections in western and central India. He said the “nation had made up its mind to keep these parties in the opposition and perhaps even push them out altogether from parliament”.

The mass suspension of MPs, from both the upper and lower houses of parliament, took place as a number of important bills awaited passage, including one seeking to overhaul the country’s criminal laws by divesting them of their colonial antecedents.

Opposition politicians accused the government of “demolishing democracy” and of “bulldozing” legislation through an “opposition-less” parliament. Of some 760 members in both houses, the BJP now has 383 MPs and collectively the opposition parties have fewer than 200.

“Suspending 141 Opposition MPs reinforces our charge that an autocratic BJP wants to demolish democracy in India,” Congress party head Malikarjun Kharge said on the social media platform X. He also accused the Modi government of acting to avoid any discussion on criminal law changes that, once passed, threatened to unleash “draconian powers on the public and impede citizens’ rights”.

“Unfortunately we have to start writing obituaries for parliamentary democracy in India,” senior Congress MP Shashi Tharoor told reporters earlier this week, after being suspended. Parliamentary democracy, he said, had been betrayed and reduced to a travesty.

Several newspapers were critical of the government over the MPs’ suspensions, which began last Thursday.

“The depleted opposition may be comforting to the Treasury benches, but it is a poor advertisement for India’s parliamentary democracy,” the Hindustan Times said in an editorial on Wednesday About 240 million people would not be represented in the lower house of parliament for the remainder of this session, it pointed out.

Police have arrested five people, aged between 20 and 30, for allegedly planning and executing the break into parliament and charged them under an anti-terror law.

Sources said the accused had told the police they were unemployed and wanted to express their frustration with the government’s failure in providing jobs to India’s youth.

Last weeks’ infringement occurred on the 22nd anniversary of the attack on the nearby old parliament building by five gunmen in 2001, in which 14 people including the assassins were killed in a firefight with security personnel.

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Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi

Rahul Bedi is a contributor to The Irish Times based in New Delhi