The opposition demanded an investigation after Union Minister Meenakshi Lekhi stated on Saturday that she did not approve of any response to a question in the Lok Sabha regarding designating Hamas as a terrorist organization. Congress MP Kumbakudi Sudhakaran submitted unstarred question No. 980, “Declaration of Hamas as Terrorist Organisation.”
What is an unstarred question?
An Unstarred Question is not called for oral answer in the House and on which, no supplementary questions can consequently be asked. To such a question, a written answer is deemed to have been laid on the Table after the Question Hour by the Minister to whom it is addressed. It is printed in the official report of the sitting of the House for which it is put down. Only 230 questions can be listed for written answers in a day. In addition, 25 more questions can also be included in the Unstarred List relating to States under the President’s Rule and the total number of questions in the list of Unstarred Questions for a day may not exceed 255 in relaxation of the normal limit of 230 questions.
In this case, here, the Lower House MP for Kannur, Sudhakaran, had inquired MEA “Whether the Government has any proposal to declare Hamas a terrorist organization in India, if so, the details thereof and if not, the reasons therefor” and “whether the Government of Israel has raised any demand to the Government of India to declare Hamas as a terrorist organization, if so, the details thereof?”
The response was posted on the Parliament’s official website and included the name of Lekhi, the Minister of State for External Affairs, along with the reply as “Designation of an organisation as terrorist is covered under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and declaring any organisation as terrorist is considered as per the provisions of the Act by the relevant government departments”.
Meenakshi Lekhi, the Union Minister, made it clear on Saturday that she has not signed any documents that raise doubts about the designation of Hamas as a terrorist group. In response to a journalist who shared the document on X, Lekhi denied signing it and stated, “You have been misinformed as I have not signed any paper with this question and this answer.” Lekhi tagged Prime Minister’s Office and Union Foreign Minister S Jaishankar on her official X handle while responding to the tweet.
When it was pointed out that the answer to the query listed in her name could be found on the websites of the Lok Sabha and the MEA, Lekhi tweeted, “Inquiry will reveal the culprit.”
Meenakshi Lekhi represents the New Delhi constituency as an MP and serves as the Union’s Minister of State for External Affairs and Culture. Regarding Ms. Lekhi’s tweet, the Minister of External Affairsclarified that there appeared to be a technical error. “We have noted that Lok Sabha Unstarred Question No. 980 answered on December 8 needs a technical correction in terms of reflecting V Muraleedharan as the Minister of State replying to the Parliament question. This is being suitably undertaken,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
In an interview with the media in November, Israel’s ambassador to India, Naor Gilon, stated that it was “time for India to officially designate Hamas as a terror organisation.” Although Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel was labeled a “terror attack” by India, Hamas is not currently on the list of organisations that the country considers being terror outfits.
Additionally, India has consistently backed the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and upheld the two-state solution as a means of resolving the conflict between Israel and Palestine.
When Hamas leader Khaled Mashal virtually addressed a pro-Palestine rally in Kerala on October 27 of this year, Gilon had previously tweeted the same demand, saying, “It’s time to add #HamasISIS also to India’s terror list.”
When Ms. Lekhi clarified her position, Shiv Sena (UBT) MP Priyanka Chaturvedi addressed it and expressed concern, saying, “Meenakshi Lekhi ji is denying & disassociating to a response attributed to her. She adds she has no idea who drafted this as a response to a PQ since she didn’t sign it. Is she then claiming it is a forged response, if yes this is a serious breach and violation of the rules that prevail. I would be grateful for a clarification from her.” In this tweet, Priyanka has also tagged the MEA.
India has always taken a moderate stance towards Hamas to maintain good ties with both Israel and the Arab world. It has sought sanctuary behind the UN by outlawing groups that the global institution has formally designated as terrorist organisations.
Question Hour is the first hour of the Lok Sabha’s sitting session dedicated to queries from Members of Parliament concerning any facet of governmental operations. Depending on the nature of the question posed the concerned Minister is required to respond to the Parliament either verbally or in writing.