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Communal Violence Bill: Let the dogs bark as the caravan goes

Monday May 30, 2011 11:14:12 PM, Syed Ali Mujtaba

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The Union Cabinet has approved the draft of Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill. The Bill is now ready to be introduced in the Parliament. The measure is expected to fulfill a major commitment of the UPA that it had announced in its National Common Minimum Programme.

The Bill was first announced by the UPA government soon after coming to power in May 2004. The Bill, then introduced in the Rajya Sabha, 2006 faced serious opposition by the Civil rights groups and was referred to Parliament's Standing Committee for scrutiny.

Now the draft of the Bill has been prepared by the Home Ministry in consultation with the Law and Justice Ministry. It has thoroughly revised the previous draft and has approval of the Sonia Gandhi headed National Advisory Council (NAC).

The Bill draft has been designed to address not just victims of communal riots, but also dalits, tribals, linguistic minorities – indeed, any community that is in a minority in a particular region – who are vulnerable to attack by more powerful members of society. Some of the salient feature of the bill is as follows:

The Bill envisages prevention of communal violence, ensure speedy investigation and dispensation of justice and impose enhanced punishment on persons involved in such offences.

The Bill moots providing relief and rehabilitation facilities to victims, creating institutional arrangement for speedy investigation, disposal of cases and empowering state and central authorities to discharge their duties in assisting victims.

The Bill seeks to provide special procedures of investigation, the establishment of special courts with powers of summary trials and day-to-day hearings as a means to deal sternly with perpetrators of sectarian violence.

The bill makes it mandatory for police to establish centres to record FIRs in riot-hit localities and at relief camps. The most sensitive issue in is the clause that calls the declaration of an area as ‘‘communally disturbed.’ The Bill says that if a state government fails to take appropriate action to prevent and control communal violence, the Centre may declare any area within a state as "communally disturbed" and deploy armed forces.

At the face of it this clause looks very attractive to the minorities who have been victim of systematic genocide in India for than sixty years or so. But the Civil rights groups had objected to this clause because it gives the Union government sweeping powers like shoot-at-sight. To this the Central government maintains that it cannot intervene in a situation of communal violence without such provision.

The proposed draft bill faces opposition from national party the BJP and its spokesperson Arun Jaitley lambasted the bill on two counts. One, the bill protects the minorities and accuses the majority of being the culprit and second the sweeping powers to the Union government that impinges upon the centre state relations.

The first argument is very silly and can be countered on the ground that laws are framed to protect the oppressed and the minorities. In order to put the record straight, the official reports of riots after riots in India from 1947 onwards can be produced as evidence of the butchering of the minority community by the majority community in collusion of the state government. There is not a single instance where majority community can be cited as victims.

This argument of Arun Jaitley seems motivated by his ideological orientation and meant for the consumption of the Hindutva whom he represents. There is no substance in such argument.

In the second argument Arun Jaitley champions the cause the powers of the states saying that the proposed bill run over independence of the state and establishes the superiority of central government in the federal structure of the country.

This argument is totally opposed to the BJPs ideology that vouches for a strong Indian Union. Can Mr. Jaitley make similar appeal championing the cause of J&K and northeast states of India? Will Mr. Jaitley plead the case of these states to have loose federal hold and be given autonomous character?

If the answer is no, then why Mr. Arun Jaitley is opposing the proposed communal violence bill? The contradictory nature of the statement made by Mr. Jaitley comes out of the sheer biases towards the minority community as his arguments do not pass the test of reasons.

The proposed bill neither should nor get deterred by such naïve arguments and the old adage that let the dog bark as the caravan goes applies in this case.

The bill serves as an effective deterrent to potential perpetrators of such crimes and removes the false sense of comfort of impunity that they seem to enjoy by hatching the conspiracy of riots after riots.

It’s high time that this bill is passed in all its sincerity of purpose and do not gets diluted with the objections raised by the opposition leaders. India for long is witnessing periodic communal carnage and it is urgent to put to rest such genocides once and for all.

Therefore it’s prudent that such legislative measure like Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill should be passed immediately and made into a law.

If the bill passes into law, it will fundamentally alter criminal jurisprudence on communal violence, bringing it in line with the international convention on genocide.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at




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