Wednesday, February 26
Savarkar portrait unveiled
The Hindu, February 27, 2003.
Amid a raging controversy, the President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, unveiled a portrait of the Sangh ideologue, V. D. Savarkar, in the Central Hall of Parliament today, ignoring the Opposition's plea to stay away from the function.
The Opposition — with the exception of the former Prime Minister, Chandra Shekhar, and a Janata Dal (S) member — boycotted the function.
A notable absentee was the Deputy Speaker of the Lok Sabha, P. M. Sayeed, who responded to the Congress' call for boycott while the Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson, Najma Heptulla, attended the function.
Dr. Kalam — who had been requested by the Opposition to reconsider his decision to attend the function given Savarkar's "dubious role in Indian history" — was ushered into the Central Hall to a song penned by Savarkar.
The National Anthem was not played. Lok Sabha officials explained that it was mandatory only when the President arrived in a ceremonial procession.
As the President unveiled the portrait, BJP and Shiv Sena MPs and their supporters shouted "Swatantryaveer Savarkar Amar Rahe" and kept up the sloganeering right through the brief function. The artist, Chandrakala Kumar Kadam, was introduced to Dr. Kalam, who was then shown the place earmarked for the portrait: right across the alcove which bears the picture of Mahatma Gandhi. The President also released a booklet, `Swatantryaveer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar'.
Though the Opposition did not disrupt the function or stage a protest in front of the Gandhi statue in the precincts of Parliament, as was being suggested by some, an echo of the controversy over the unveiling of the portrait was heard in the Lok Sabha soon after with the BJP member, Yogi Adityanath, accusing the Opposition of insulting the memory of a freedom-fighter. [...]