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
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
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org