Feature

India: Lawmakers who brawl at work

Why do Indian legislators treat their parliamentary chambers like a &ldquo;World Wrestling Entertainment stadium&rdquo;? asked Bachi Karkaria in the <em>Times of India.</em>

Bachi Karkaria
Times of India

Why do Indian legislators treat their parliamentary chambers like a “World Wrestling Entertainment stadium”? asked Bachi Karkaria. “In nearly every Indian state, local lawmakers “have broken chairs, bones, and all laws of decorum with equal impunity.”

The latest brawl, at the Maharashtra state legislature swearing-in, was particularly embarrassing, as it was prompted by ugly ethnic rivalry. Newly elected lawmaker Abu Azmi chose to take his oath of office in his native language of Hindi, rather than in Marathi, the main language of Maharashtra. As soon as he began speaking, furious Maharashtra nationalists “slapped, shoved, and otherwise savaged” him.

Such scenes don’t happen only in India, of course. Russian lawmakers have been known to throw punches, and the Taiwanese legislature has been the scene of at least one all-out melee. The British Parliament still separates ruling party and opposition lawmakers by “a distance of two sword lengths,” a holdover from the days when disagreements quickly turned into duels.

But only Indians, it seems, manage to pick fights during an oath of office ceremony, when no laws are at stake. Perhaps we’ll have to stop calling it a “swearing-in”—and rename it the “swearing-at” ceremony.

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